• The San Juan Daily Star

3 UPR campuses to consolidate administrative services in pilot program

The University of Puerto Rico governing board has voted to consolidate the administrative services of the Arecibo, Aguadilla and Utuado campuses as part of a shared services pilot program.

By The Star Staff

The University of Puerto Rico (UPR) governing board voted to consolidate the administrative services of the Arecibo, Aguadilla and Utuado campuses as part of a shared services pilot program.

The vote, announced by the president of the governing board, Mayda Velasco, took place at a meeting Wednesday and marks the first major structural change required by the fiscal plan to deal with a reduction in the number of enrolled students and funding cuts.

“At a systemic level, the University has lost in the last five years 28 percent of its enrollment, 28 percent of its staff due to ‘attrition,’ not due to layoffs, and 51 percent of allocations from the Central Government,” Velasco said in a written statement. “Adding to this scenario is a declining demographic trend and a workforce that, on average, has already rendered 17 years of service and half of which would be in a position to retire in the next five years. Given that picture, there is no way it makes sense to maintain the same operational structure. This is not essentially a fiscal problem, but one of design and sustainability. When we look at the venues individually, the numbers are much more dramatic in some of them and that is the case with the units that are part of the pilot.”

Regarding enrollment, Arecibo has experienced a 26 percent drop and Aguadilla 37 percent, while Utuado has 67 percent fewer students. In terms of budgets, Arecibo has experienced a reduction of 16 percent, Aguadilla 11 percent and Utuado 23 percent. Those figures lead to an increase in cost per student that in Arecibo translates to a 13 percent increase and in Aguadilla reaches 41 percent, while in Utuado it translates into a 133 percent increase in cost per student.

“We hope to draw lessons learned from this implementation to scale to the system level,” Velasco said. “The implementation of the project is based on an incentive plan for participating employees and units. This is an exclusively administrative transformation that does not address academic aspects or operations.”

The proposal seeks an administrative transformation through the reengineering of the operation and provision of some services at the three campuses with an investment of $1.4 million per year. The pilot plan is expected to begin in the next semester.

The pilot provides that the participating employee will be paid and the unit will be incentivized for participating in the pilot project. The project would involve 541 employees, 149 positions and 94 offices among the three participating units. Meanwhile, 164 permanent positions would be created, 137 employees would receive salary increases and 204 employees could receive differentials for functions that exceed their current duties.

Separately, with 8 votes in favor, 3 against and 3 abstentions, the governing board ratified the appointment of Ilka Ríos as provost of the Medical Sciences Campus.

Ríos replaces Wanda Maldonado, who held the position on an interim basis.

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