University of the Puerto Rico- Mayagüez Students Facing Exile

By: Angely A. Piazza Rodríguez

The past October 31, 2013, eight students of the University of Puerto Rico- Mayagüez’s Writing for the Media class conducted a press conference about the brain drain’s impact on UPRM students and Puerto Rico. The conference, which took place on campus, featured panelists were Erwin Maldonado, a historian, accountant, and administrator of Education Services Company, and José S. Torres, a mathematics and civil engineering mayor student at the UPRM.

First of all, according to a Census Bureau data published in December 2012 in Caribbean Business online, Puerto Rico lost 27,000 people last year to the U.S; many were professionals and students. Consequently, Torres will soon be joining the ranks of young professionals who leave the country. He plans to graduate from UPRM and continue his studies in the U.S. to eventually enter the workforce there., “If I get a job offer here in Puerto Rico I may take it, but if I got an offer in the U.S I would definitely take it”, he said during the press conference. “I probably would have a better salary there than here”, he added.

Like Torres, many UPRM students prefer to study and work in U.S because they consider that their future prospects in Puerto Rico are limited.  As was presented in the article ‘Puerto Rico’s population exodus is all about jobs’ from US Today, students prefer a safe plan rather than playing a sort of lottery to find jobs. “This trickle of jobs simply isn’t enough to stem the exodus”, said Nasser, the author.

Moreover, in an article of the Caribbean Business, 2008, Dr. Manuel Gómez expressed, “there is definitely a brain drain in Puerto Rico. About 40% of the engineers who graduate from UPR- Mayagüez go directly to work in the mainland U.S”.

However, Puerto Rico’s brain drain has taken control over the island therefore, it has been difficult for the island to decrease its economic crisis. Puerto Rico’s government has increased taxes, lowered job opportunities, increased unemployment, etc. and made university students and professionals make drastic and permanent decisions such as migration.

According to the 2010 Census, Puerto Rico’s population fell by 2.2 percent during the past decade; in that period the number of people who left the island with a college education rose to 50 percent. “The rise in the emigration of these professionals merits attention,” said Puerto Rico Institute of Statistics Executive Director Mario Marazzi Santiago to Caribbean Business online.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico has at least $70 billion in debt, according to an article in The Washington Post, which “makes a brutal combination of a long recession and a shirking in population”, said the author.

In addition, according to an article of The Center of New Economy (CNE) group website, “Puerto Rico is on a road of becoming the ‘Detroit of the Caribbean’”. Panelist Erwin Maldonado disagrees. Maldonado explained that Puerto Rico is far from becoming the ‘Detroit of the Caribbean’ because Detroit presented economic problems based on small businesses and raising families but, Puerto Rico’s situation is because of poor management of funds. “It may take years but Puerto Rico will get out of this crisis, not like Detroit”, he added.

However, “I can assure you that Puerto Rico will not default”, said Gov. Alejandro García Padilla in an interview with The Washington Post. “Puerto Rio will pay our debts. It is a constitutional obligation. But for me it is also a moral obligation”, he added.

On the other hand, the main problem of the migration of students and professionals is that few of them come back. Like Torres said, “If I get a job there I will stay there”. Maldonado affirms that the lack of students affects the education program and the government, in matter of economy. “There will be less income for the Education Department and for the government”, said Maldonado. “The absence of professionals makes it harder for Boricuas to pay hospital visits, psychological therapies, etc. because eventually the professionals who stayed on the island have to increase their cost so they can ‘survive’ in the business”, he added.

Puerto Rican’s exile is affecting Puerto Rico as a whole but the U.S is gaining more.


Press conference team and our two guest panelists, Erwin Maldonado and José S. Torres (front row, center)


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