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Secondary Education in Puerto Rico

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Amanda Morris
Consumer Behavior
10 December 2012
Higher Education in Puerto Rico

Amanda Morris
Consumer Behavior
10 December 2012

Higher Education in Puerto Rico Puerto Rico is an interesting country when looking in comparison with the United States. They have been largely influenced by the US in culture, economics, and education. Because they have had aspirations of becoming the 51st state, they have historically tried to mainstream their culture in tandem with cultural trends in the mainland US. The interesting thing about that is that Puerto Rican people are fiercely proud of their cultural identity, and their heritage. They refer to themselves as Puerto Rican, even when they are second and third generation United States’ citizens. They have fought to keep Spanish in their schools instead of strict English. They hold themselves to even higher standards of education in many aspects. This leads to some interesting nuances in Puerto Rican education and the choices people make when it comes to choosing a college. This paper seeks to briefly examine how consumer behavior relates to higher education in Puerto Rico. Economics play a large factor, as well as strong involvement from the government, and US cultural influences in how and why secondary education choices are made for the people of Puerto Rico.

To being with, when thinking about Puerto Rico, one must first look to what makes the country unique. A good starting place would be its basic facts regarding its demographics. Puerto Rico is one of the most densely populated islands in the world with just over 1000 people per square mile (Rivera). This statistic also makes them more densely populated than anywhere in the United States as well. Most of their population lives within an urban setting at 71% (US Census Bureau), which makes sense when considering how densely populated the small island is. The average family size is three to four people. The average household income is roughly $27,000 which is about half of what the average mainland US household nets at $58,000 (Rodriguez Dominguez). This leads to about 41% of the population living below the poverty line. They are primarily white with Spanish origin, however there are also a small percentage of blacks, Asians, and Amerindians (Rivera). They have a rich ethnic history because of the origins of their country. The country’s literacy rate is at 94%, which means that nearly everyone over the age of 15 years old can read and write. This is an impressive feat when you consider that in the US illiteracy rates in high poverty areas, at 43%, are significantly higher than high-income areas, at 4% (US Department of Education). The structure of the government in Puerto Rico is definitely an interesting one. They are considered a self-governing commonwealth of the United States. This means they consider our President Obama to be their chief of state, but they elect their own governor to be the head of their island government. They also have a Senate and a House of Representatives. They have a cabinet appointed by the Governor and ratified by the legislature. They also have their own justice system, the Supreme Court. The commonwealth is divided into 78 municipalities, instead of counties like most states (Rivera). The capital city of Puerto Rico is San Juan, and this is where their primary governmental buildings are housed (Rivera). Due to their commonwealth status, they enjoy many benefits of the United States. The people of Puerto Rico enjoy dual citizenship. They are allowed to enter the US freely, and do not need a work visa, or green card, to be employed here. They are allowed to participate in the US Armed Forces, Social Security, federal welfare, and enjoy the protections of the United States in international affairs. They also have the US Postal Service, and follow the US Constitution. Despite these many similarities, there are a few differences. The people of Puerto Rico are not allowed to vote in elections within the mainland US. So while they have to recognize the President of the United States, they do not get a say on who is elected into the position. Puerto Rico also has its own tax system and does not follow all of the Internal Revenue Service’s code.
Culture is an interesting part of Puerto Rico. Because they have such a blending of influences, from the United States, the Spanish, Native Tainos, and Africans imported for slavery, they have a blend of many different aspects to form their cultural tapestry (Rivera). They have strong religious ties to the Catholic faith; also have integrated folklore from the Tainos and the African Santeria, which buried most of its symbols in Catholicism to hide. This leaves them with traditions about ghost/demons and “el jibaro” from the Tainos, Christian holidays like Christmas, and interesting talisman and icons for the Saints thanks to Santeria. The culture of Puerto Rico is more classically Latin American than it is North American when looking at the Geert-Hofstede Model. They are more Collectivist (Hofstede), which means that they are very loyal to their group. This loyalty overrides most other rules or relationships. This can be seen in their National pride. They encourage strong family relationships and look for those bonds at work as well. Puerto Rico has a more masculine culture (Hofstede). They are driven and competitive. They want to succeed, and emphasize performance. They have a high score in uncertainty avoidance (Hofstede), which means they like to have rules, and security. Non-traditional behavior and roles are frowned upon. They have a slightly lower power distance score (Hofstede) which leaves them looking to have input with their managers and supervisors, and that they expect direct communication.
Higher education in Puerto Rico has some definitive characteristics. A little over 40% of the population of Puerto Rico has at least some college education (US Census Bureau). This gives them an international ranking of number six in the world for college education rates (Rivera). There is a strong focus on higher education. They have a secretary of education on their cabinet (Caribbean Studies). In the past, they have allocated budget about 40% of their national budget towards education (Rivera). In recent history, there has been a move from the current governor to try to privatize education. This has been done by slashing funding and support for the public universities, like the University of Puerto Rico (Rodriguez Dominguez). This has created an interesting shift in where people attend college. Most of the students coming from poverty-level homes are actually attending private universities now. This is exactly the opposite of how things go in the United States. In Puerto Rico, the private universities are actually cheaper, and the students receive funding through Pell Grants, which are actually funded through the US government (Rodriguez Dominguez). This shift is evident when noting that there are 51 private universities and 14 public universities (Caribbean Studies).
When looking at the choices for continuing education, it is important to look at what forces might influence a student’s decision. There are several factors that might influence a Puerto Rican as to which college they should attend. Many of the distinctions noted previously to identify their culture and country will play a part in the decision. External influences such as economics, government, and religion certainly play a part. As previously mentioned, many families live below the poverty level in Puerto Rico (Rivera). This means that many of them struggle to afford university education. When the public universities lost 336 million dollars in government funding from the Puerto Rican government, they were forced to increase their fees by over $800 (Rodriguez Dominguez). This may not seem like much to many Americans, but to families that are only making $28,000 a year, that is dramatic. Because of this, many were forced to leave the public university setting and switch over to the private universities where they received grants, like the Pell grant, and scholarships (Rodriguez Dominguez). These economic figures obviously play a major role in the decision about what school to attend. If a student and their family cannot afford to go to University of Puerto Rico, they will have to look at other options. Part of this is also related to the government. There is a strong push for Puerto Ricans to attend college. While the government is pushing for privatization, they still want to remain competitive on a global level. They have incentives for universities that have schools of medicine and law ( that have been expanded since 2009. The government and the current governor heavily control the University of Puerto Rico, also known as UPR. Governor Marin exercises heavy influence over the UPR’s policies and educational requirements in an attempt to create an elite ruling class in Puerto Rico (Rodriguez Dominguez). This has met with a lot of opposition from teaching unions as well as students. This may also influence where a student goes to school. If they are against Marin’s mission for the largest college system in the country, they may opt for private colleges where he has little to no influence. Religion also can play a factor for many families in the choices for higher education. Churches sponsor many of the private colleges. There are eleven Protestant campuses and five Roman Catholic campuses ( Most of these colleges are dedicated to the vocation of teaching ( If a family had strong religious convictions, their choice of university might shift towards one of these schools. It can be seen that external influences can certainly play a part in the choice of university. Internal Influences such as attitude, lifestyle, values and motivation can also play a part in the choosing of a university. It was stated earlier that Puerto Ricans rank highly for a Collectivist culture. Students would surely be asking their family and friends for opinions on their choice. They would want to get a consensus of everyone’s thoughts before making a final decision. Since Puerto Rico is also a more masculine culture, there is also a high level of competitive spirit and drive to succeed. This can be especially seen in the stiff competition to get into the UPR. Students wishing to attend the university must have at least a B average and pass an entrance exam (Rivera). Spots are limited, especially in the schools of Medicine and Law. Because of the high score in Uncertainty Avoidance, they will also want to follow traditional educational paths and the norms set before them. While there have been student protests regarding the amount of control Marin has over the UPR, it is still the largest attended university system in the country ( Puerto Ricans by and large will follow the rules set before them. It is a common aspect of the Puerto Rican culture to travel to America for education and job opportunities (Rivera). UPR has become very successful in placing its students in the US for internships and learning abroad opportunities ( Because this is such a normal part of the Puerto Rican lifestyle, it may be expected by students, so if the university they attend cannot provide it, they make look elsewhere for their education.
As it stands, there are many factors that can influence the choice of where to attend University in Puerto Rico. They span from external factors like to government and religion, to internal values such as lifestyles and attitudes. There are many options for students, but the fact remains that Puerto Ricans definitely choose college over not attending at all. This is a huge step, particularly for a poverty stricken nation. They seek to better themselves and open doors through education. This is one of the reasons for their exceptionally high literacy rates and world ranking for college education rates.

Works Cited:

Geert Hofstede, Geert Jan Hofstede, Michael Minkov, Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. Revised and Expanded 3rd Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill USA, 2010

"Higher Education- Puerto Rico." Puerto Rico. State, 2012. Web. 09 Dec. 2012. <>.

"Puerto Rico." Caribbeanstudies. Foundation For Caribbean Studies. Web. 7 Dec. 2012. <>.

Rivera, Magaly. Welcome to Puerto Rico. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <>.

Rivera, Maria. "Personal Experience With Higher Education In Puerto Rico." Personal interview. 5 Dec. 2012.

Rodriguez Domínguez, Victor M. "Expanding Democracy and Public Education in Puerto Rico." Dissident Voice RSS. 14 Feb. 2011. Web. 9 Dec. 2012. <>.

United States. Census Bureau. Web. 1 Dec. 2012. <>.

United States. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. Fast Facts Adult Literacy. 2007. Web. 9 Dec. 2012. <>.…...

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