By Lilly A. Robledo Vargas
Over the past eight months the UPR has been one of the most recurrent and covered topics in local news and has even captured the attention of the international media. All began on June 26, 2010 when the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) placed in probation the 10 of the 11 units of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) whose educational offerings were impacted by the student conflict for lack of evidence of compliance with two of its 14 Standards for Accreditation.
This occur after a stoppage, in which an inform of the University costs, in which a fee was include, came to light. Students confirm that the information presented was unclear: there was an amount of money they don’t know where they came from. Asking and pushing they realize that the money will be from a special fee. Which are the consequences from this ‘stabilization fee’?
According to Ansel R. Cancel, an activist student from the Mayaguez campus, this fee would provoke a difficult situation for most of the UPR students. “Ygri Rivera says that we can pay it with the Pell scholarship, but what about the books, apartments, food, gas, cell phones without mention the professor’s caprices?” It is estimated that 10,000 students would not be able to pay this amount and in the Certification 146, Rosa Franqui, secretary of the Board of Trustees, indicates that the second semester of 2010-2011 academic year, students would be paying $800 and $400 for the first semester of the 2011-2012 academic year, “Where I am going to get $1,200 in one year? I don’t only life for study, we all have more costs”, add Cancel.
Otherwise, the UPR Carolina campus is the first who is going to input the stabilization fee, because their classes are quarterly, but no one knows how to apply for the government scholarships. Governor Fortuño announced the allocation of $ 1.7 million in federal funds for the Work Experience Program designed exclusively to help students from UPR to pay $ 800 fee. It was reported that the requirements included having 18 to 24 years, be enrolled in 12 credits or more, belong to a family receiving public assistance payments and nutritional assistance, or a person with some impairment. If so, would not benefit members of the working middle class workers including students.
Against the stabilization fee, the student Nicole M. Diaz from the Rights Faculty of the UPR, begin a campaign of red balloons Don’t leave 10 thousand in the air. “Our principal demand is that the administration hears our proposals which if implanted, the fee would be unnecessary and the University finances would be restored” ensures Diaz.
In response and in the absence of arguments or willingness to dialogue, the government of Luis Fortuño ordered the occupation of the 11 campus by militarized police forces and the suppression of any protest on or off campus by dint of threats, batons and gas tear. The attempt to silence all dissent has escalated to a level that has produced dozens of illegal and selective arrests, accompanied by the beating of detainees and fabrication of charges.
Valerie Rodriguez Rodriguez, president of the General Council of Students of UPR-Bayamón said that the fee is absolutely unnecessary. “There are many alternatives to eliminate this fee. For example, to collect the debts they have for the University which are of millions, that the government return the money they take off to college for the famous ‘Act 7’, to have cut management staff, including others.”
The group of UPR Socialist Students has a website in which they indicate a ‘perfect solution’ to the $800 stabilization fee. The Pell scholarship is granted to 25,933 students who received $5,550 per year. It is estimated that $2,600 surplus, then $76,502,350 can be collected from all this students, so the fee is not necessary, ensures the socialists, if the administration keep that surplus.
In answer to this last sentence, Osvaldo González Sepúlveda, president of the General Council of Students of Carolina, said: “Why are they going to do a selective process in which some students will benefit and others not? It would be better if they improve it in the debt and all would benefit from general.”