Institutional Resilience in Puerto Rico: A First Look at Efforts by Puerto Rican HSIs

Excelencia in Education
February 2023


Over the last five years, Puerto Rico has faced fiscal and economic disruptions, demographic shifts, hurricanes and earthquakes, governance challenges, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While most of these conditions are not new to Puerto Rico, the intersection of all these challenges created a nexus for institutional resilience and efforts.

This brief is the second phase of a multi-tiered project–the first of which was an environmental scan of conditions and context of the population, K-12 educational pipeline, higher education, and workforce in Puerto Rico that Excelencia published in 2021. While this brief is not meant to be exhaustive of the experiences of institutions and students in Puerto Rico, it is indicative in a broader sense of institutional resilience and transformation to meet their mission and goals to serve their communities with a quality education.

Excelencia in Education engaged five Puerto Rican HSIs in a series of interviews to learn more about their efforts in resilience in the last five years:

  1. Inter American University of Puerto Rico-Arecibo
  2. Universidad Ana G. Méndez-Gurabo
  3. University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez
  4. University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras
  5. University of Puerto Rico-Utuado


These five HSIs are adapting to compounding challenges in their current context. From the interviews with these institutions, Excelencia identified key efforts that demonstrate these institutions’ resilience:

  • Sustaining institutional management. Leadership at these five institutions described the restructuring strategies they implemented to sustain their institution. Some of these strategies included making staffing changes, consolidating their student services and academic programs, streamlining degree requirements, and seeking external funding.
  • Managing enrollment plans and expectations. To address enrollment challenges, these HSIs have enhanced and adapted their recruitment strategies to more intentionally recruit students to their institution. These strategies included expanding program offerings to students in the mainland, holding Open Houses, placing emphasis on robust academic programs, and utilizing new outreach mediums such as social media to reach more students.
  • Supporting students by meeting their basic needs and providing wraparound services. To retain their students, these institutions aimed at holistically serving their students by meeting students' basic needs. Institutions provided access to meals, additional financial support, mental health services and counseling, and intentional outreach throughout their students’ trajectory.
  • Preparing students for graduation and post-completion. Institutional leadership at these institutions emphasized the importance of connecting their graduating students to Puerto Rico’s workforce through dedicated career development opportunities for students, internship experiences, job fairs, and opportunities for research experience and continuing on their education at the graduate level.

This publication was developed with the generous support of the Ascendium Education Group. Special thanks to Margarita Benítez, Senior Associate, and Hilda Colón Plumey, Professional Educational Consultant who were integral parts of this analysis and led the interviews with institutional leaders and administrators.


Suggested Citation: Santiago, D., Labandera, E., Arroyo, C. (February 2023). Institutional Resilience in Puerto Rico: A First Look at Efforts by Puerto Rican HSIs. Washington, D.C.: Excelencia in Education.


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Learn more about Latino College Completion in Puerto Rico


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Read our an environmental scan of colleges and universities in Puerto Rico in Higher Education in Puerto Rico: Conditions and Context Influencing Institutional Resilience



Infographics to share

Infographic-Which five HSIs in Puerto Rico participated in Excelencia's latest analysis?
Infographic-How have five Puerto Rican HSIs adapted and managed their enrollment in the last five years?
Infographic-How are five Puerto Rican HSIs addressing student needs to improve retention?
Infographic-How are five Puerto Rican #HSis graduating and connecting their students to PR's workforce and beyond?
Inforgraphic-How are five Puerto Rican HSIs sustaining institutional management to address ongoing challenges?
Infographic-What are the college experiences of Puerto Rican students?



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