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University of Puerto Rico fiscal plan due Thursday must reflect tuition hike

By on April 4, 2018

SAN JUAN – The Financial Oversight and Management Board is insisting that the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) significantly increase its tuition, especially for medical and legal degrees, and consolidate its 11 campuses as it reiterated that the institution’s proposed fiscal plan was in violation of the Promesa federal law.

The UPR and other government entities must submit by Thursday new versions of their fiscal plans that incorporate the fiscal oversight board’s recommendations.

“Unless the Proposed Plan identifies sufficient additional expenditure reduction measures, the Board reiterates its firm belief that further and more immediate increases to the cost per credit are likely to be required to achieve fiscal balance,” the board said in a letter rejecting the school’s fiscal plan.

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The fiscal oversight panel said the UPR can sustainably increase the price per credit, excluding fees, from $57 to $157 in fiscal year 2019. The resulting annual tuition with fees of $5,010 would still remain below the U.S. Pell Grant maximum award of $6,095 and be competitive with private universities on the island.

Tuition for most UPR graduate programs range from $2,600 to $4,000 annually, which is less than the average tuition for private university graduate programs on the island, or $5,689 in 2017.

“The annual tuition for UPR’s medical school, for example, is $9,200 for FY -fiscal year] 2018, compared to in-state tuition of $25,000-$40,000 at comparable public mainland universities and $34,000-$57,000 for other private universities on the Island.

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“The Proposed Plan must include significant changes to right-size graduate tuition levels to better reflect the costs of comparable programs at private universities on the Island as well as U.S. mainland universities. Specifically, the Board believes substantial increases to the tuition of doctoral, juris doctor, doctor of dental medicine, and doctor of medicine programs should be put in place,” the panel wrote.

However, the fiscal board said it continues to encourage the UPR’s governing board to adopt a tuition policy that considers financially vulnerable students.

“If the Proposed Plan does adopt a means-based tuition policy, however, it must do so in a financially sustainable and responsible way, meaning it should balance students’ Pell Grant award eligibility with annual tuition increases so as to ensure that a far greater proportion of Pell Grant funding goes to UPR in the form of tuition, while still ensuring a reasonable allocation remaining to cover other expenses like books and transportation,” the fiscal board further said.

Additionally, honors scholarships should have “clear” academic thresholds and provide “only partial exemption” from tuition. The fiscal board said it believes the university should eliminate even more tuition exemptions that are based on factors unrelated to financial need.

The academic institution’s proposed plan must also include a “substantial fiscal impact” from the projected student population decline after Hurricane Maria and a “system wide effort to evaluate and score all outstanding academic curriculums” that includes the “repeal of ineffective programs,” a reduction of greater than 50% from non-faculty personnel at regional campuses by fiscal 2023 and a description of faculty reductions “with corresponding fiscal impact associated with the elimination of non-compliant programs.”

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