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Costa Rica cuts $13.4 million from public university spending

February 20, 2009

Costa Rica´s public universities were outraged to learn the government plans to cut higher education spending by ¢7.5 billion ($13.4 million).

The Finance Ministry said Thursday the decision was made after the Central Bank´s gloomier than expected forecast of economic activity.

“You can´t make a decision about reducing the budget unilaterally,” said Olman Segura, president of National University (UNA), in Heredia, north of San José. Segura said his institution is set to lose ¢1.6 billion (almost $3 million) of originally agreed upon funding from the Special Higher Education Fund (FEES).

The FEES funnels money to four public universities, including UNA, the University of Costa Rica, State University at a Distance, and Costa Rica Institute of Technology.

Finance Minister Guillermo Zúñiga, however, said the government initially agreed to spend 1.03 percent of gross domestic production on state universities, which according to initial forecasts amounted to ¢204.1 billion (more than $365 million). Amid expectations of a shrinking economy, the Ministry has been obliged to slash this amount by 3.5 percent, Zúñiga said, according to the daily La Nación.

“The ministry cannot pay anything that isn´t authorized in the (national) budget,” Zúñiga said. “I think what (the public universities) will have to do is start to look at where they´re going to cut back.”

Meanwhile, university and high school students are preparing “the fight to defend the state university budgets,” according to Seminario Universidad, a weekly newspaper published by the University of Costa Rica. The paper reported the Federation of University Students of Costa Rica is organizing a protest set for March 14.

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