Feature story

By: Emmanuel Alemán Pagán

December 5, 2010

The Special Fee and Students’ Reactions


Luis Ruiz

Born in San Sebastián, Puerto Rico Luis Ruiz is a student of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (UPRM) who is completing is masters in agronomy. But now Luis is facing the threat of a special fee of $800 that is planned to be implanted by January, 2010.

Luis is 26 years old who receives no help from his parents, no federal help, and has a job to pay for his studies. “By now I’m finishing my master and I only need one credit left to graduate. If this fee is implemented I will need another job to pay for the semester” Luis said

A 35 percent of UPR students don’t receive any kind of help for their studies, according to College Students in Action (CEA).“By now I’m working out of Mayaguez in the time that I have free and the summers to have money to pay for the semester” Luis added.

The special fee of $800 will be implemented to all students in the UPR system, from graduate students to under graduate students. The administration of the UPR system estimate that  50,000 students will pay the fee and the UPR will collect $40 million that only will cover 16 percent of the entire deficit. “I understand that the UPR has a deficit of millions, what I can’t understand is why we, the students have to pay for it” said Luis.

Today Luis is worried about what he is going to do if the administration continues with the implementation of the special fee. “I just want to finish my carrier and start working, but with the special fee I will have to pay $132 + 800 = 932 for my last semester”, said Luis.

Luis Candelaria is another student from the UPR system, but different than Luis Ruiz his only income comes from the federal aid.

“I receive the federal aid but that just helps me with the studies and apartment, and sometimes it isn’t enough. If the special fee is implemented I will need a job so I can pay, but the university doesn’t allow that”, Candelaria said. The University doesn’t allow students sub graduated work out of the University. That is the case of Luis Candelaria a student who should find a job to continue with his students or get out of the UPR system. Worst is the case of students with brothers and sisters who would need to pay $800 per student.

Acording to the financial aid office of the UPR the cost of a student’s annual expenses is 13,932 of which only 5,350 are covered by the Pell Grant. With the special fee the cost of a student’s annual expenses will increase to 14,732 per year. The Graduate students like Luis Ruiz is annual expenses will amount to $19,000.

The UPR system is going through a series of activities for the students to exert pressure against the administration such as strikes in different campuses. In the recent assembly in the UPR of Mayagüez the students decided not to strike, to reject the fee, and to give an ultimatum to the administration. If the administration doesn’t eliminate the fee there will be another assembly in December 14, 2010 so students decide what to do.

“I didn’t assist to the assembly but I was hearing it. I don’t like the idea of another strike but sometimes its necessary”, said Candelaria. On the other hand, Luis Ruiz said, “I don’t support the strike nor am I against, I just want to finish my master even if it means getting $800 for the special fee”. In other campuses have approved stoppages and strikes like happened in the campus  Rio Piedras.

A recent report published in El Nuevo Dia states that students don’t support the strike because of the possible loss of accreditation. “All warned not to endorse or push the imposition of a fee of $800 beginning in January, 2010. But they all recognize that the University and the country has much more to loose from this strike”. José Luiggi a UPR- RP student said to El Nuevo Dia that “without accreditation, the university would lose its prestige. (The strike) is a mechanism to oppose the oppression of the administration, but now we can’t use”. “The only left is what we are doing know, different alternatives so the Universtity wont be affected” added Candelaria.





Picture Taken By College Students in Action(CEA acronym in Spanish) March  to Capitolio


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