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Rosselló seeks a divided, specialized and self-sustained public university system

Governor Ricardo Roselló proposed to remove three flagship campuses from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) system to turn them into research centers with their own structure of governance, implying that there would not be a single presidency and a single Governing Board for the whole system.

'There are 11 campuses and three of them, I believe, have the potential to be large research and development centers that can attract new resources, including Mayagüez, Río Piedras and the Medical Sciences campus. These three venues become independent, they are given a separate governance system and would avoid what sometimes happens: that the strength of these venues pulls the smallest,' explained Roselló Nevares at a roundtable with NotiCel.

He argued that the current system limits the growth capacity of these three campuses. Although they would operate independently, they will remain as a public university system.

'They are part of the public system. These are things that have happened in other public systems in USA. It gives an opportunity for them to continue growing. It is the opportunity that I see. I see a university campus in Mayagüez that can attract capital research, students from other parts of the world and that maybe is limited under the current platform,' he added.

Under the new scenario, Río Piedras, Mayagüez and Medical Sciences would have total autonomy from the system, transforming the UPR into a smaller system, composed of the eight remaining campuses.

'I see that the eight remaining campuses can remain under a structure similar to the one we have now. Each of the three independent venues would have their own system of governance… If that is done, the other venues have to specialize so that they have a reason to be. Specialization would depend on each campus,' he said.

He also stated that the specialization of these areas could be by educational fields such as agriculture, agronomy; or to meet or adjust to the particular needs of the geographical region in which they are. The purpose, he insisted, is that they create a specialized model and become self-sustained.

To achieve this re-engineering of the UPR system, public investment will be necessary, he admitted, but changing the paradigm so that the only source of money that the University has is not the one allocated yearly from the General Fund of the Government of Puerto Rico through a budget formula.

He pointed out as an example, the executive order signed last week that establishes as public policy that agencies first prioritize hiring of University resources to offer professional services, instead of the private enterprise. He insisted that, in this way, the agencies are obligated to make agreements with the UPR, increasing the income it receives.

'We have always thought that the resource is the Government. There must be multiple resourcs here,' insisted the Governor as he suggested that other ways to increase UPR income is by exploring more structured academic offerings via an online university, marketing research patents and increasing the offering of more comprehensive evening programs to attract more students into the system. He reiterated that the cost of tuition must be reevaluated for students to pay according to their income level.

'As long as you have a student who can pay, he pays. And set a model so that those who can not afford don't have to pay but still have access to the education,' said Roselló Nevares.

He reiterated that these are only suggestions that would allow to attract more income to the system without having to cut services and essentials areas, since the decisions on the future of the UPR remain in the hands of the university administration.

(Nahira Montcourt / NotiCel)