By Hector Luis Lopez
“My students have zero motivation” to continue in school, said Haydeé Collado, a counselor at Dr. Pedro Perea Fajardo Vocational School in Mayagüez.
“I had a student that came up to me and told me ’I am not going to study. I am going to be like my mother and I am going to take government aid’”, she recalled, Collado recalled. This leaves a rather negative impression about the mindset of students in general and their apathy of obtaining a college degree.
“The students receive a good education, at least here in the vocational school they come with a career in mind. When they (the students) reach their senior year, it is when they start to look for job opportunities. That is what the vocational school prepares its students for, not to promote the students to further their studies to a college level.” continued Haydeé Collado
One can point out the possibility of the students receiving a “bad” education as a factor of their way of thinking. Then again, some schools do prepare their students in a way where they don’t promote the idea of furthering the student’s studies.
Economic factors that also come into play. Lately, the cost of living has gone up and shows no signs of either stopping or slowing down. College tuition has increased greatly ever since the “stabilization fee” has been implemented (requires students to pay an additional $800 per semester year).
There is also the factor that some students do not live near the college in where they are studying and need to incur in housing expenses, which are high and include the added expense of utility bills.
This is due to the lack of public universities throughout Puerto Rico yet there is no shortage of private colleges. Another problem is that not all the UPRs (University of Puerto Rico) provide the same majors as it can be seen with UPRM (University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez), where it is the only university that gives a diploma in engineering.
A problem that private universities have is that they filters out the students that can study in them since they are more expensive than those from the UPR system. For example, the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico offers degrees in engineering, yet the tuition greatly differs from that of UPR being on average of $190 per class versus $49 per class.
Now, it is not to say that all students that are from public schools or have a family member that depends on government aids are not motivated to attend college. There are programs that approach and try to motivate students to continue their studies. For example, UPRM has the CUA (University’s Center of Access).
The CUA’s purpose is to change the face of the UPRM’s student population by balancing its class composition. (usually they try to reach those from lower income) and promote that they should study and finish a college degree.
Upon asking Lissette Rolón Collazo, Ph.D., Investigadora Principal del Centro Universitario Acceso (CUA) on how effective have been the techniques used by the CUA, she had this to say “They have been very effective. 87 percent of our participants (those that the CUA comes in contact with) get the opportunity of entering an University or institution of higher education.”
Programs like the CUA’s can be are quite effective and show that there are lower-income students that indeed have some interest in continuing their studies beyond high school.
Lissette Rolón addrd that “there has been an increase in admissions from those students to universities or institutes, yet when it came to UPRM, there has been a decrease from the participants due to policies that UPRM has.”
This shows that it is not a one sided that students are not able to get a higher education. It is not only because students don’t have any interest in studying but also that univesrity policies repel possible candidates.
Rosa Enid Mangual Bonilla, teacher of business administration at Dr. Pedro Perea Fajardo vocational school, is convinced that “a college degree is required to solicit a job and if one does not have one, it would be very hard to get a job since it is considered that if one lacks a college degree, it shows that the person has a lack of experience and that the person is not fit for the job.”