By: Gabriel Jiménez Nieves
The year 2010 has been a very eventful year for the University of Puerto Rico. Between the noticeable budget cuts, implementations of fees and tense strikes, students have been affected in different ways.
In January 2011, the spring semester will start with 10,000 students less because they won’t be able to afford tuition due to the new $800 fee. Many students will be able to pay the fee, but it’ll involve hard sacrifices.
Like UPR-Bayamon student Nicholle Jimenez, a marketing and an accounting mayor who’s currently a junior. Working two part time jobs, in the hectic metropolitan area, which barely cover her daily expenses let alone her tuition costs.
“I don’t receive any kind of financial aid”, she stated on the interview with a straight face. Elaborating on the subject she said that the requirements, that determined the assignment of money to students, were a little bit absurd. “I have to earn a misery to be able to qualify as a student in need of financial aid.”
She told that this semester was filled of stress and tension. Making reference to the January-May 2010 semester, in which all of the sudden conflicts emerged. All the students are on the edge wondering what’s going to happen.”
The accounting and marketing student hardly will be able to pay her tuition for this coming semester with the addition of the 800 dollars. “With no financial aid it’s going to be very hard and I’ll have to sacrifice a lot of things I’ve earn working my two jobs to be able to afford my “public education” thanks to this fee” she said air quoting and rolling her eyes.
She has already asked for more hours on her jobs in hopes to raise enough money to pay for college. But she is worry that her jobs are and will keep interfering with her studies, “my priorities have change drastically thanks to the bad administration of funds in the UPR, suddenly now my priority is earning money to pay the ridiculous fee.”
When asked if the strikes and manifestations where going to resolve anything she answered “Yes, by all means. The administration doesn’t seem to succumb to the pressure the strikes make, but look at all the money that has magically appeared to help students pay the fee, money that of course I won’t get to enjoy.”
According to an interview between governor of Puerto Rico Luis Fortuño and the newspaper El Nuevo Día no student would leave his education because of economic reasons. But studies say that a little more of 10,000 students won’t be able to pay for college.
Like the situation of Jorge Carrion, a senior of the Natural Science department of UPR-Río Piedras. “I will not be able to study next semester because I won’t be able to pay tuition thanks to the fee” was the first thing he said. With sadness in his eyes, that filled the room with sorrow, he told his story.
At the age of 12 he lost his mother due to a tumor on her brain. He was left to life on a low income household with his grandparents. At the age of 16 he began working on a local thrift store to help his grandparents.
Ending his senior year he applied for the UPR-Mayagüez campus in the Chemical Engineering department. He was admitted but soon abandoned his pursue because of the high expenses it involved.
“I had to get a car and find lodging houses which involve a lot of money; sadly I had to abandon my pursuit of happiness.” He then settled on studying at UPR-Río Piedras Natural Science department.
He only gets around of 3,000 dollars a year on financial aid which disappear on the first month of each semester. He works a full time job earning minimum wage. “I have a minimum wage job but I also have sick grandparents who I have to take care of, I’m the only thing they have and there the only thing I have.”
Talking about how the fee is going to affect his already tight budget he got teary eyes. He’ll have to temporally abandon his education to find another part time job in addition to his full time job. Jorge plans to save money to pay for his education but states that he’s not sure if it’s going to happened. His grandmother has recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and treatments are highly expensive.
His grandfather Rafael Perez claim to be disappointed on the current UPR administration on the brutal actions takes on the students. He repeated twice along the interview how devastated he knowing that his grandson’s education was hanging from a thread.
“I’m totally in favor of any form of manifestation and strike against the UPR administration. I’ve participated in most marches and stoppages because I saw the need to fight for public education.” He also added that he’s not only participating on manifestations against the fee because he won’t be able to pay for his education. But because he knows that almost 10,000 students like him are on the same boat he’s on.