SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Puerto Rico's governor on Monday pushed back on a federal control board's demand for $450 million in cuts at the island's largest public university.
The proposed cuts recently prompted nearly a dozen top university officials to resign in protest amid warnings it would affect the quality of education and lead to layoffs of professors who already have been denied sabbaticals and salary increases.
Gov. Ricardo Rossello told the control board in a letter that the University of Puerto Rico cannot sustain further cuts because its budget has already been reduced by $348 million in the past two years. He proposed instead that university budget cuts be instead reduced to $241 million and implemented by 2021.
"Having access to higher education is key element to enhance economic and social development," he wrote.
Rossello said he could generate more revenue for the university by having government agencies pay professors to provide training for teachers and other government employees. Public Affairs Secretary Ramon Rosario said in a press conference on Monday that municipalities are already paying private companies to provide that service, so it would not be an additional financial burden on them.
The university system has a total of 11 campuses and serves more than 50,000 students.
The board, which oversees the island's finances, did not immediately comment on Rossello's letter.
The proposed cuts have been a point of contention as Puerto Rico seeks to restructure some $70 billion in public debt amid a decade-long economic crisis. The board recently approved a 10-year fiscal plan that implements multimillion-dollar cuts and increases in some services to help stabilize the island's economy.