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Oversight Board, UPR students discuss fiscal issues

Board Executive Director Natalie Jaresko and Chairman José Carrión met with UPR students Wednesday. (Credit: Agustín Santiago)

The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico meet Wednesday with student representatives of the University of Puerto Rico’s 11 regional campuses, in addition to the Plastic Arts and Design Schools and the Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music, to discuss the public university system’s fiscal situation.

As a designated covered territorial instrumentality under the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, the UPR was originally required to submit its Fiscal Plan to the Oversight Board by March 31, 2017.

It has subsequently requested time extensions to meet this requirement but has yet to submit a plan to the Oversight Board for certification, the agency said.

During the meeting, the students voiced their concerns regarding the proposed budget cuts contemplated in the government of Puerto Rico’s certified 10-year fiscal plan and the impact those cuts might have on students, faculty and the UPR as a whole.

They also presented some initiatives meant to reduce costs and generate additional revenue for the university, whose campuses have been on shutdown for more than a month in protest over the proposed budget cuts.

Board members present at the meeting, including Chairman José B. Carrión, and members Ana J. Matosantos and David A. Skeel, as well as Executive Director, Natalie A. Jaresko, listened to the student’s concerns and proposals and encouraged them to share them with the UPR’s Governing Board, which has the responsibility of crafting the UPR’s fiscal plan.

“The Board supports the University of Puerto Rico and understands the important role it fulfills on the island,” said Carrión.

“We also understand the magnitude of the budget and economic problem Puerto Rico faces and the need to achieve the fiscal balance required under the law. The Fiscal Plan for the Government of Puerto Rico certified by the Board, will require difficult but necessary choices by the university’s leaders, students and faculty,” said Carrión.

Some of the measures discussed to achieve the necessary savings while maintaining access and quality include increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of academic and non-academic services, adopting a means-based tuition policy, and increasing the recruitment of nonresident students, among others.

Currently, an estimated 72 percent of the UPR’s budget comes from the Commonwealth’s General Fund.

‘There is no doubt of the importance of providing quality, public higher education on the Island and of the central role that the University of Puerto Rico plays in this respect,” said Skeel.

“We’re confident that the University of Puerto Rico will have a fiscal plan that lives up to the challenges that we all are facing while propelling the university, strongly, smartly and efficiently, well into the future for the benefit of all,” he said.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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