Discussions between the University of Puerto Rico and the Oversight Board regarding tuition exemptions and its effect on the budget, rekindle the need to make the principle of merit, the true ruler of public resources distribution.
Associating benefits and positions to the qualifications of those who receive them will strengthen not only the University, but the entire government system.
A meritocracy-based culture will undoubtedly be valuable in processes related to the training and administration of human capital, as part of the ambitious fiscal restructuring and adjustment agenda of the Puerto Rican public sphere.
Given its new fiscal reality, the public University can become a testing ground for applying the justice of merits. This will benefit both individuals, whose education the people have entrusted with, as well as the University itself.
Tuition exemption in the UPR comes as an example. On one hand, this privilege has been developed to assist educational financing of outstanding students in academics, arts and sports, among others. So far, university students and their families, among others, have received this benefit.
The Board eliminated those benefits from the university budget for the current year, with the exception of one item for students with the best academic performance. We agree; contributing to talent development, through a system clearly based on measurable merits, enriches students, adds to the prestige of the university and strengthens the country that invests in its human capital.
Meanwhile, exemptions have been included among the benefits for the largest group of the university system workers, without funding for this in the Board-certified budget.
We support the open dialogue between the university administration and the Board regarding the future of the exemptions and other core issues for the university finances administration. At the same time, we consider that it is up to the University to establish priorities within its available resources and to obtain additional funds through its innovation capabilities. If exemptions were to be avoided beyond students with academic excellence, it would be wise for the whole program to be ruled by the merit principle and in compliance with the fiscal plan.
Since its foundation in 1903, the UPR has been instrumental for social mobility through talent development. In these times of crisis, it has to ensure that education prevails as a vehicle for the progress of the island.
First of all, the merit principle must guide all public management. The legal framework of the Puerto Rican public service - dating back to 1947 - establishes qualifications and preparation as the main considerations for being hired and getting promoted.
The proper use of resources -as a goal- requires associating benefits with skills, and performance and production quality. To respect the merits is to recognize the employee´s dignity; to optimize the distribution of resources. It also stands as a barrier against the decadent culture of political interests, cronyism and favoritism that abounds in our island.
Applying the merit principle in hiring, appointments and promotions encourages efficiency by eliminating costs associated with positions and tasks redundancy in the government structure. It is as recognition to the thousands of employees who work in public service with a high sense of responsibility.
Objective criteria in public resources distribution is mandatory in the socioeconomic development of the island.