Thursday, June 20, 2019

UPR Asks for Extension for 2018 Audited Statements

By on February 8, 2019

Editor’s note: The following originally appeared in the Feb. 7 -13, 2019, issue of Caribbean Business.

In the first meeting of the University of Puerto Rico’s (UPR) Governing Board after submitting its “show-cause” reports to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), the president of the institution, Jorge Haddock, announced he had requested an extension to submit the audited financial statements for the 2018 fiscal year.

During the president’s report, the governing board also discussed the next steps in the commission’s noncompliance action process against the UPR.

At the meeting, which took place before all members of the UPR Governing Board had access to the show-cause reports, the president mentioned some of the parameters from his proposed campus consolidations, which currently contemplates a three-campus model with two additional conglomerates. However, there is no final proposal yet.

After touching base about communications and recruitment initiatives, as well as increased admission rates, the UPR president discussed the accreditation process.

The UPR had to submit 11 show-cause reports to the MSCHE to respond to doubts over the efficacy of internal planning and documentation of resources, as well as the possible insufficiency of funds because of budget cuts, and concerns about the commission’s access to UPR information.

Haddock expressed satisfaction with the submitted reports and informed the board that after the visit of the MSCHE evaluating committee, this week, several administrators will travel to the MSCHE in March to answer commission questions.

As for his expectations, the UPR president stated: “The two most possible scenarios are that they give us one more year or they [give us] the eight years.”

Eight years is the accreditation period, but to clarify, the probation process does not alter the regular accreditation process, which in UPR’s case, it had its accreditation revalidated in 2016.

Furthermore, on questions related to the possibility that some campuses could remain accredited while others are not, the UPR president mentioned that the campuses are individually accredited. However, the professor representative, Alán Rodríguez, argued that the areas where there is noncompliance are systemic and not by unit.

“Yes, the units have to defend their permanence with the Middle States accreditation because they are 11 individual accreditations. However, everything that has to do with finances, we have centralized. We have presented [only] one audited statement from EY [Ernst & Young]. Meaning, when the independent units are asked to send audited financial statements, they all send the same identical [one],” Rodríguez sustained.

The professor representative also mentioned that the 2018 audited financial statements were expected by March 30. Haddock indicated that they had already requested an extension to the U.S. Department of Education, and it had been approved.

The new deadline for both the 2018 audited financial statement and single audit is April 30. The UPR also has to hand in its 2017 single audit by Feb. 28.

The other exchange between the professor representative and Haddock was about the reason for the noncompliance status. Haddock argued that he’s confident the UPR will not lose its accreditation because the audited financial statements are just one of many standards. However, Rodríguez reminded the UPR president that while show cause came about because of the lack of financial statements, the noncompliance status included financial stability standards.

Aside from accreditation, Haddock talked about his campus consolidation proposal, which he explained has been delayed because some resources had to be transferred to respond to the show-cause reports.

The three independent campuses would be Río Piedras, Mayagüez and Medical Sciences. The east conglomerate would include Bayamón, Carolina, Cayey and Humacao, and the west conglomerate would be Aguadilla, Arecibo, Ponce and Utuado.

Haddock indicated that the consolidation would be administrative, and in terms of governance, he is reviewing the committees and boards currently in place at the campuses.

As for the workforce, Haddock assured Governing Board members that there were not going to be any layoffs and the administration would seek to make the administrative changes “without affecting services to students and minimizing the movement of personnel and students from their original campus.”

Haddock said the current proposal does not include the elimination of campuses. However, he argued, “At this moment, we can’t rule out anything,” adding that as UPR’s fiscal situation worsens, he cannot discard the possibility of eliminating campuses in the future.

The proposal is expected to be ready for the next ordinary meeting of the UPR Governing Board.

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