Oversight board discussess fiscal plan, accreditation with University of Puerto Rico
Faces deadlines to submit proposed plan, order to show cause for academic accreditation
SAN JUAN – With a deadline of only a little more than two weeks for the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) to submit a proposed new fiscal plan, Natalie Jaresko, the executive director of the island’s Financial Oversight and Management Board, met Friday with the academic institution’s president, Jorge Haddock.
The meeting took place as the UPR’s internal committees hold working sessions to produce the fiscal plan, and touched upon its implementation, as well as financial reporting, utilization of scholarship funds and concerns over the UPR’s non-compliance status with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), for which Jaresko said her panel was committed to helping the UPR maintain its accreditation.
They also discussed the UPR’s financial and academic competitiveness compared with local, stateside and international institutions, according to the release.
“As Puerto Rico’s main academic institution, UPR plays an essential role for Puerto Rico’s society and economy,” Jaresko said. “It is crucial for this accomplished university and its students that it maintains its accreditation and continues to offer the same quality education it always has,” she said, adding that “Higher education is a key to Puerto Rico’s stability and prosperity.”
The UPR’s 11 campuses are on show cause for lack of compliance with the Requirements of Affiliation 11 and 14, which address financial planning and documentation, and access to information, respectively. The UPR is also in non-compliance with the Standard of Accreditation VI, which pertains to financial resources.
While the requirements refer to apparent internal issues regarding long-term financial planning, as well as not submitting financial statements on time, for the Standard of Accreditation VI the Middle States is questioning the ability of the UPR to have enough resources to fulfill its mission, given the budget cuts it has experienced and the ones expected in the fiscal plan approved Oct. 23, which drops its central government allocation from about $650 million for fiscal year 2019 to $441 million for fiscal 2023.
In the Jan. 10 letters in which the accreditation agency notified the 11 campuses they were being placed on show cause, the Middle States requested, among other documents, for “updated information on the impact of the Fiscal Oversight Management Board’s plan and proposed restructuring on the institution’s status and finances.”
With regard to the fiscal plan, which the UPR must submit by April 5, with the expectation of having it certified by May 1, the board and the school discussed the scholarships that are part of the current plan, under which undergraduate tuition was raised in June to $115 per credit, from $57, but the scholarships, which were supposed to be awarded at the same time, have yet to be issued.
The fiscal board stated Friday that the “Certified Fiscal Plan requires UPR to create a needs-based scholarship program this year with $9 million, growing to $16 million by fiscal year 2023. An additional $35 million for independently managed need-based scholarships has been budgeted in the Commonwealth’s Certified Fiscal Plan for the current fiscal year, aiming to ensure that no student is left behind.”