The University of Puerto Rico, a core institution for the development of Puerto Rico since it was founded in 1903, faces the crucial challenge of comprehensively restructuring its academic and administrative operations to respond with excellence to the needs of new generations of Puerto Ricans.
The UPR can take advantage of the Oversight Board’s endorsement to the university’s new fiscal plan to launch efficient initiatives in its operational infrastructure and academic offerings, in line with the responsibility to build the island’s big project that serves people’s aspirations for progress.
Without increases in tuition fees applicable to students in the short term, the UPR must streamline mechanisms seeking greater fiscal self-sufficiency given the inescapable reality of reduced central government contributions.
In this urgent task, curricular reforms based on emerging disciplines with growing demand in the digital era cannot be relegated. Similarly, strengthening successful programs on campuses specialized in science, mathematics, and technology must remain a priority goal.
Foundations that led to successful programs in engineering, mathematics, technology, and medicine, such as those at the Mayagüez and Medical Science campuses, must be replicated in other centers with reduced enrollment.
It is time to enrich those programs with declining demand and to review outdated models. It is necessary to exercise detachment and projection into the future, considering innovations in the labor market that go beyond the local context and that demand competent professionals for personal or online jobs anywhere on the planet.
Reforms must vigorously include distance-learning alternatives. In this area, private universities have taken the lead and are attracting students who seek greater flexibility or employment options that do not interfere with their studies. Virtual classroom alternatives have also facilitated the reentry of adults interested in masters or doctoral degrees. This goes in line with the importance of research for the UPR which has positioned the university in the fields of Natural and Social Sciences, as well as in Humanities.
And the University must hold its place among the field of humanities and its contribution to the critical thinking of thousands of graduates who contribute to the island from all fields of knowledge.
To advance its necessary transformation, the UPR has to eradicate administrative deficiencies and failures linked to omissions in the strict enforcement of management standards, focusing on building an efficient structure free of bureaucratic layers that undermine the agility imposed by modern times. It will be important to maintain a good scholarship program to attract students with high development potential whose limited resources represent an obstacle to quality education.
This transformation requires the adoption of a dynamic fundraising structure including local and international foundations that promote culture and education, as well as technological and professional improvement. In the goal of systematically generating its own income, the UPR has the potential to achieve revenue from new systems patents, inventions, or products that have resulted from research carried out in its laboratories.
This effort also calls for partnerships with other higher education institutions in Puerto Rico and universities in the United States and Europe that have previously carried out collaborations of notable international projection.
UPR graduates, as well as its professors and administrative staff, an experienced pool of resources and talents including world-renowned professionals, are called upon to achieve a reformulation that is indispensable for fiscal autonomy, administrative efficiency, and educational modernization, in the path of the island´s economic and social recovery. The goals have been clearly defined. Will and commitment will make it a crucial project for the progress of Puerto Rico.