cost of a college education in puerto rico: University of Puerto Rico - Mayagüez entrance

cost of a college education in puerto rico

It’s no secret that the cost of a college education has been soaring stateside.  Beginning in the ’90s, the price has been rising much faster than the rate of inflation, more than doubling from 1994 to 2014!   It had gotten to the point where I had begun to wonder if the return on investment even made sense anymore.  We are fortunate to live at a time when anyone can affordably learn marketable skills at home, by taking courses online from sites like Udemy.  They can then go and find work on freelancing sites like UpWork, where clients could care less if you have a piece of paper from an institution of higher learning, so long as you are good at what you do.

That said, college is not JUST about getting a job.  Exposure to topics like history, philosophy and language, for example, enable a student to come out the other end a more well-rounded human being overall.  Nevertheless, it is difficult to justify these hard to quantify, soft benefits of a university education, if it means graduating under the thumb of suffocating debt.  The average yearly cost of in-state tuition and fees at a four-year public school in the states is about $9,410.  Of course, the all-in price at an elite private university will run significantly higher.

Cost of a college education in Puerto Rico

In contrast, tuition and fees at the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez, for example, is around $2,000!  In other words, you can obtain a four year degree in Puerto Rico for less than the cost of one year of college in the states!  Out-of-state tuition and fees aren’t bad either at just over $4,000 annually.  The surprisingly low cost of a college education in Puerto Rico really changes the ROI calculation.

cost of a college education in puerto rico: picture of the Jose San Diego Building at the University of Puerto Rico - Mayagüez

the historic main administrative building at UPR Mayagüez (picture courtesy of my friend Leo Flores, Ph.D., Professor of English)

However, if you are interested in taking advantage of these prices, you will probably want to move quickly.  The university system is heavily subsidized by the Puerto Rican government.  9.6% of the general budget of Puerto Rico is automatically assigned to the university system by law, providing 68% of it’s revenue.  With the government’s finances currently under the scrutiny of a federally appointed fiscal oversight board, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see these tuitions rise, perhaps significantly.  It will be interesting to see what tuitions will be in 6 years, when Desmond is ready to go to college.

That said, these prices are hard to ignore.  If you or a child is ready for college (and speaks Spanish), perhaps this is something worth looking into further.


  • Oh, you also didn’t mention that more than 50% of the students at UPR GET PAID $3000, SOME get PAID up to $6000 to attend UPR thanks to the Pell Grant.

    6 or so years ago UPR tried to raise the cost by $800 and stop double dipping. The students went bezerk! They barricaded themselves inside the property and went on strike. IIRC it was almost a year they were on strike. Many masters and PHD students lost their experiments because they were not allowed onto the campus.

    I spoke with many students who were upset (both sides). Many current and former students said it was their right to the full Pell grant and that they needed to get paid so they could pay rent, make car payments, and buy food.

    • Thanks for providing some background Jeff. It isn’t going to be pretty if the subsidies are reduced, but it’s hard to imagine they won’t be at some point…

  • Also worthwhile to mention that the first 2 years are basically high school. We knew several teachers there who had a majority of students in biology who didn’t know basic classification and had to be taught about mammals vs amphibians etc (thought whales were fish). He would tell us about taking “kids” (mostly around 20 when they start) to the river to turn over rocks looking for things. I did that with my third graders! Most “kids” take 6 years to finish. The exception might be the engineering program which is supposedly pretty good…

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