Wednesday, February 8, 2023

University of Puerto Rico president at loggerheads with fiscal board over cuts

By on May 13, 2019

(CB file photo)

Haddock warns more cuts threaten quality of education; board says it isn’t asking for new measures

SAN JUAN – The president of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Dr. Jorge Haddock, rejected spending cuts he said were included by the island’s Financial Oversight and Management Board in the institution’s fiscal plan. Haddock’s remarks come 13 days after the board notified that the university’s fiscal plan was not in compliance.

The UPR’s draft fiscal plan, delivered April 5, includes a $444.4 million government subsidy reduction by fiscal year 2023, as well as maintaining tuition hikes, reducing enrollment exemptions and the proposal of conglomerates to group the Aguadilla, Arecibo, Bayamón, Carolina, Cayey, Humacao, Ponce and Utuado campuses.

However, the fiscal board notified the UPR that those measures still do not meet the fiscal goals the panel wants to establish for the UPR.

“We reject these new demands. The UPR has been very responsible, substantial adjustments have been made with sensitivity to avoid the impact to our students and staff. We have arrived at the requested savings without dismissing employees, without closing campuses and without eliminating benefits as they initially demanded. Imposing new measures could disrupt the quality of education and we will not allow that,” Haddock said in a statement.

In a statement issued later Monday, the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico said it has not asked the university “for fiscal measures, expenditures or additional income to those that had been included in the Fiscal Plan of the UPR, as certified by the Oversight Board last October.

“The review process has to do strictly with updating information and reflecting the progress of the implementation measures.”

The board said it seeks, “for example…updated figures regarding students enrolled, as well as recent information about the next increases in the cost of enrollment.”

The board stressed that “the review process of the UPR’s fiscal plan seeks that said plan be aligned with the Certified 2019 Fiscal Plan of the Government of Puerto Rico.”

In the case of tuition exemptions, the fiscal board indicated that the proposal is still not consistent with its standards, particularly in the areas of exemptions for employees or children of employees and athletes, for whom it recommended eliminating exemptions entirely.

Likewise, despite not agreeing on the final reduction, both the fiscal board and the university administration point to the scholarship programs to mitigate the tuition increases for students excluded from the exemption programs.

“A scholarship program was implemented to guarantee access to all students who qualify for their academic merits,” Haddock said.

Another issue of discord is tuition. The university’s administration kept the same pace of tuition increases as in the previous fiscal plan, which provided $54 million for the current fiscal year, and scaled up to $91 million for fiscal 2024. In the case of graduate students, the tuition adjustments ranged from $7.9 million for the current fiscal year to $16.4 million for 2024.

The draft fiscal plan also indicated that the increase in graduate-level enrollment could not be increased to the levels that the fiscal board was asking due to the high cost of fees and other charges. Despite the argument established in the university administration’s draft, the fiscal board is requesting a 1.5% increase to graduate enrollment.

Finally, regarding campus consolidations, the fiscal board requested more information. In the meetings of the UPR Governing Board in which the issue of the conglomerates has been discussed, the president of the UPR has indicated that the proposal is not complete.

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