By Nick Brown
NEW YORK (Reuters) – The governor of Puerto Rico proposed measures Monday to reduce planned budget cuts at the University of Puerto Rico to $ 241 million for fiscal year 2021, from $ 450 million approved by the territory’s fiscal oversight board. American in distress.
The measures, outlined by Governor Ricardo Rosselló in a letter to the board, include transferring some of the savings generated by the upcoming cuts to health spending to the university; allow the university to earn income by training public employees; and working with the island’s Science and Technology Trust to monetize the university’s patents, something the UPR has historically struggled to achieve.
The fate of the school is a sensitive issue locally, with groups of students threatening strikes over cuts. The UPR budget has already been drastically reduced by $ 348 million in the last three fiscal years, according to Rosselló’s letter.
Its problems are interspersed with great economic distress in the United States, where nearly half the population lives in poverty and unemployment is more than twice the American average. As the island suffers from less than $ 70 billion in debt, the pension and public health systems are heading for insolvency and locals flock to the continental United States.
The territory’s finances are under the supervision of a board appointed by the federal government, which some local critics condemn as an extension of its colonial legacy. The austerity measures recommended by the board have sparked protests on the island.
The board has called for cuts in government subsidies, staff cuts and tuition rate increases at UPR, the 11-campus, 70,000-student university that has produced four of the island’s former governors.
The total cut of $ 450 million would be a “dramatic negative” that would be “difficult for the university to absorb,” leaving it with an operating deficit of $ 157 million, Moody’s Investors Service said in a note Monday.
Hiking tuition is difficult “given the highly price-sensitive student population,” Moody’s said. He added that while he expects UPR to pay its $ 32 million debt on June 1, subsequent payments could be lost because the university stopped transferring money to trusts for debt payments under Puerto Rico’s 2016 emergency moratorium. .
Some economists say the school has room to trim fat.
Arnaldo Cruz, co-founder of the San Juan-based Center for Integrity and Public Policy Studies, said the UPR spends too much on non-teaching positions and its 11 campuses are too many on an island of 3.5 million. “We think it doesn’t make sense on such a small island with a declining population,” Cruz said.
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