Students at the publicly supported University of Puerto Rico will vote on whether to mount a strike if administrators implement a hike in tuition.
The Student Front for an Accessible Public and Quality Education, or FEEPAC, announced on Monday the possibility of staging a 24-hour strike on April 23.
The student initiative follows last month’s decision by the UPR board not to extend the moratorium that had avoided a hike in tuition over the past year.
FEEPAC says that if the tuition increase is confirmed it will come on top of the roughly 90 percent increase in university tuitions over the last 10 years.
The General Student Council had asked for tuition to be frozen at $55 per credit hour, up from $30 an hour in 2004, but administrators rejected that appeal.
FEEPAC spokesperson Yalitza Serrano Gonzalez told Efe on Monday that the possible strike would be voted upon on Tuesday in assemblies on at least six of UPR’s 11 campuses.
The possibility of a strike that “would light the fuse” of conflict in the higher education sector is of great concern in Puerto Rico, where in the summer of 2010 students paralyzed UPR for two months to protest a budget reduction and a supposed plan to privatize the institution.
“We want to convene the entire student body to participate in the assembly and for us to make a decision to go on strike in the face of a possible increase in tuition due to the budget cutback,” said Serrano Gonzalez.
She said that the strike possibly would be held a day after UPR president Uruyoan Walker meets with the board to discuss the possible reduction of services as a result of the $150 million cut in the budget.
“We’re not going to agree to any kind of cutback when education already has a cost. We’re going to have a strike and call upon the government to give us minimum participation in the (educational) necessities. The university must be accessible for every young person,” Serrano Gonzalez said.
UPR has 57,774 students, 4,060 instructors and 6,228 administrators and support staff.
The university system is being affected by Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla’s plan to reduce public sector spending with the aim of dealing with the U.S. commonwealth’s large budget deficit and $70 billion debt.
Puerto Rico is in its eighth year of recession and suffers from 15.4 percent unemployment. Annual per capita income on the island is roughly $15,200, half the level of Mississippi, the poorest U.S. state.