By: César Rodríguez
The University of Puerto Rico System will charge an $800 stabilization fee to all students. The University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez Campus (UPRM) has 2,283 first year students in 2010. These students applied to this university without knowing about the stabilization fee.
The stabilization fee may force first year students to change their mind about the UPRM institution. The UPRM is seen by many as the best university in Puerto Rico, it’s the 13th best university in Latin America according to multiple sources.
Even with the stabilization fee, the UPR has the cheapest enrollment fee in Puerto Rico. Nevertheless, the fee will cause thousands of students to stop studying since they will be unable to pay the $800.
Many students receive the Pell Grant which will at least help pay the fee, even if they won’t have enough money for the rest of the expenses. There are some families that have three and four children at the moment who will have to pay the $800 dollars for each one of them.
Such is the case of Gabriela Rodriguez, she and her two older brothers study at the UPRM at the moment without any scholarships or grants. Her younger brother will probably enroll in the UPRM next year. “If nothing changes, our parents will have to choose which of us continue studying,” Gabriela said.
Gabriela believes her younger brother is the one who could be left out if the UPR doesn’t solve their economic problems. She said it would be really hard for her parents to pay $3200 dollars each year to keep the four of them studying.
The difference between first year students is that many probably didn’t know the problems the UPR had other than the big strike last summer. They also know the fee will stay indefinitely and they have more years left to pay.
The University of Puerto Rico is the only public higher education system Puerto Rico has. Many students have nowhere to go study if they can’t afford studying in the UPR.
A questionnaire about the fee was sent via e-mail to two sections of students in INPE 3011 and CFIT 3005, classes that are normally for first year Agricultural Sciences students. INPE 3011 had 15 first year students while CFIT 3005 had 51 first year students.
Out of those two sections, only 22 answered the questions. The questions were about their opinion of the UPRM before and after the fee and if they were going to drop out or change universities.
Out of the 22 students that answered all the questions, 19 said they believed the fee was unfair and that they weren’t happy with the university. The other three students said they didn’t want to pay it but weren’t worried about it.
Seven students won’t study in the UPRM next semester but only two are leaving because they can’t afford to pay the fee. The others are all transferring to the InterAmerican University’s various campuses because they believe there may be another strike and want stability.
The fee is causing student losses in multiple ways. Some students want to keep studying and leave the university because they don’t want a strike while others are forced to leave because they can’t afford it.
Gabriel Santiago believes the university is in a very difficult situation at the moment. There are not many ways the students can stop the fee and almost everyone in the university is opposed to a strike. According to him, there’s no way to keep everyone happy.
Many UPRM students are afraid of the campus going on strike and their studies being postponed. First year student Roberto Fernández said: “I can’t risk losing the semester just because a minority wants to close the gates, at least in the Interamerican University there are no strikes.”
The two students that can’t afford to pay the fee next semester are José Ramirez and Daniel Pérez. They both knew what they were going to do next semester at the time of their interview.
José would work full time in Toys “R” Us where he now works as a part time. He believes he’s lucky to at least have a job until he can get back to studying. He also said: “Many students aren’t like me, they won’t be so lucky to find a job with Puerto Rico’s economic situation.”
Daniel is going to continue studying, but he will settle with taking short courses he can afford to try and get an Associate Degree. He believes he won’t be able to finish his Bachelor’s Degree unless the fee is completely eliminated.
There may be hundreds of students who won’t study in the UPRM next semester. Students have tried to get help from the mayor of Mayagüez since the university helps the economy of Mayagüez in many ways.
The Student Council of the UPRM has agreed to continue negotiation with the Board of Regents of the UPR system and to inform the student body what happens in those negotiations. They also led a march to the Mayagüez Chancellor’s office to try and negotiate with him.