The Council of Rectors of Chilean Universities (CRUCH) has considered it necessary to make known to the public their bewilderment and discomfort at the position of the Ministry of Education, expressed by the Undersecretary of Higher Education in the Commission of Education and Culture of the Senate, regarding the dismissal of the various alternative solutions presented by CRUCH to face the difficult academic and financial situation of its Universities in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. In this regard, we must express that:
1. The Council of Rectors, in the first session of the Commission in which this situation was analyzed, reported on the complex impacts for its 30 Universities and proposed six measures that would allow it to face this crisis. On the occasion it was stated that the impact, only in terms of financial deficit, will exceed $ 146 billion pesos.
2. Considering the complexity of this situation that mainly affects the public institutions that contribute to the work of the State in the training of citizens, it is striking that the position of the Ministry, in the second session of the Commission, did not reflect an analysis in depth of the CRUCH proposals, nor did it open spaces to discuss the background information or to seek joint solutions.
3. One of the most worrying aspects is the Ministry's proposal regarding the use of surplus resources from the University Credit Solidarity Fund (FSCU), indicating that the CRUCH universities could have access to the surpluses for the year 2019 “but to the extent that they can also deliver the remaining part of these surpluses to a common solidarity fund, and that this fund be available to all higher education institutions that require it, through soft loans granted under favorable conditions. ”
4. In this regard, it is necessary to remember that in the last two years, CRUCH has requested to make use of the FSCU's surplus resources to face the deficit generated in the institutions as a result of the free policy. However, in 2018, in the discussion of the 2019 Budget Law, the Executive, through the Constitutional Court, denied this possibility, even though Congress had approved it. Subsequently, in 2019, although the use of 30% of these resources was established, the Mineduc restricted that possibility only to the resources recovered in 2019.
Furthermore, when asked to reconsider this position, the Mineduc repeatedly pointed out the legal complexity that this meant, which contrasts significantly with the current approach that maintains that a major legal reform would not be required. Consequently, it is worth asking about the will of the Executive to allow CRUCH institutions to effectively use these resources.
6.It seems to us of the greatest relevance to clarify that the surplus of the Solidarity Funds are the heritage of the Universities, since they have contributed and invested in them for years and the Law mandates them for the care of this heritage. Therefore, we believe that it is absolutely legitimate the request that it be our Universities that can make use of these surpluses, which would be used as complementary support for our students and would help to face the situation of deficit generated in the institutions.
7. It is important to point out that this is not the first time that the Executive has raised the idea of accessing the resources of solidarity funds. An example of this is the Solidarity Financing System, SIFS, in which this intention is clearly reflected. In this sense, we must state that the Ministry's proposal does not constitute a solution and, moreover, the political principle behind this initiative is worrying.
8. In addition, the rejection of the request not to consider the year 2020 in the nominal duration of the degree program for free beneficiary students, and the refusal to open a new process to apply for student aid through the FUAS, given that the situation Many families have changed unfavorably as a result of the health emergency, they reveal a position that is far from the support that public education requires from the State at such a crucial moment for Chilean society.
9. Finally, we believe that this type of approach does not recognize the work or the substantive contribution that Universities have made in this crisis situation, nor the public role that characterizes our institutions, so we call on the relevant authorities to open instances of dialogue and advance in the search for solutions.
Dr. Juan Manuel Zolezzi Cid
Council of Rectors of Chilean Universities