My piece of the pie

Learning valuable lessons

Learning valuable lessons

I have seriously mixed feelings about the current conflict engulfing our public universities.

On a purely human level, I sympathize with the protesters. The current wages for University professors in our public system are insulting to say the least. University budgets have been practically frozen since the Revolution took hold, and violence on campus is a fact of life.

And yet, while I defend their right to march and protest, deep down everyone knows it’s not the government’s fault.

It’s the model that is not working.

Venezuela decided long ago that its public universities would be free of charge. We chose, in the midst of our oil-boom-distorted view of the world, that we could afford to pay for the tuition of everyone who wanted to go to college. Ta’barato, dame cuatro (universidades). Hugo Chávez only compounded this illusion by irresponsibly creating more and more free universities, thereby increasing the pressure to continue these subsidies ad infinitum.

Now that our population has doubled, our oil income has stagnated, and we want to continue paying for everyone’s gas tanks, we find that, lo and behold, we don’t have enough money for university education!

I think a reality check is in order. Giving away free tuition is a deeply regressive policy, one that we cannot afford and shouldn’t have in place even if we could.

Much ink has been spilled on this topic. Public universities are deeply inefficient, and they (mostly) benefit the middle and upper classes. Every Venezuelan dentist we meet working overseas, every USB engineer we see drilling for oil in Qatar, and every UCV economist working for a multilateral institution are a walking, talking advertisement of money that was not well spent.

I know this may irk some of you, but think about it: we are taking money from each and every Venezuelan (in theory, the owners of the oil we drill) to hand it out to people who can afford to pay their own way.

As if this wasn’t crazy enough, we also limit private education. Our private universities are constantly cash-strapped because the government regulates their tuition costs as well.

Regulation of private universities represents an assault on academic and economic freedoms, and it makes absolutely no sense. The government is basically putting itself in the middle of a transaction between an organization and its customers, and it’s doing so uninvited. It’s a race to the bottom, and this is preventing our universities from taking off.

The solution is to move away from this system where the supply of higher education is subsidized to a system where we subsidize demand. In other words, make everyone pay their fair share of their university education, and if there are people who gain admission and can’t afford it, subsidize them.

Blanket subsidies leave everyone in the cold, because the blanket ain’t big enough.

The world learned this lesson long ago. Even in Communist, Maoist China universties are expensive – tuition at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, for example, runs at about 10,000 USD per year. Imagine what Simón Bolívar University would do if it could charge 10,000 USD per student. ¡Hagámonos los chinos!

So yes, let’s take to the streets and protest, but let’s not kid ourselves. This is a recurrent problem and it’s bound to rear its head again and again.

Unless we tackle the underlying model of how we finance university education, we will continue seeing professors marching and students sewing their lips shut. Their place is in the classroom and in the research lab.

113 thoughts on “My piece of the pie

  1. Were the Twin Towers hideous carbuncles that disfigured lower Manhattan? Undoubtedly. Was the early afternoon of September 11th, 2001, the time for architectural criticism? Ermmmmm…


    • Right, let’s discuss the proper financing model for our universities when we are awash with cash! Actually, NOW is the right time to talk about this.

      And the analogy… yowza! #OverReachingMuch?


      • Juan,

        But it is not JUST university financing that we have the wrong model for. It is chickens, and coffee, and toilet paper, and… everything.


    • I Agree, also I think the public opinion has move so far to the left that even suggesting changing the financing model of universities is unthinkable, I also think that oil could afford free university for venezuelans since it is an investment for a future when we wont have oil, the problem is in my opinion that oil is financing everything else too, and because the private sector is shrinking, the goverment doesn’t enough tax income to cover the gap, and we have brain drain problem because of that too


      • vagonba:

        Oil CAN NOT afford free university for Venezuelans. With current high oil prices with barely have just a GROSS income of 3000 USD per year, per inhabitant. Net income would be around 1200 USD/year per capita, depending on how you compute it.

        That amount is about one order of magnitude less than what other countries use for secondary education, and university education is way more expensive. Therefore, a typical university student will consume the full net oil income of about 50 fellow Venezuelans, and here we are considering that university education is the ONLY service the government is going to provide…


        This is just another of the many mismatches in oil expectations vs. reality that we Venezuelans have.


        • Dago
          if 29.000.000 venezuelans go to the university at the same time not the oil of the entire world would be enough to finance it, my point is that it would possible to afford free education if tax collection pay for the rest i.e. roads, health etc. i believe free top education should be #1 priority, unfortunately the private sector is being destroyed under the current system


        • if education isn’t free then the rich get richer bug will go on, it’s important that the poor people have access to the tools to climb into middle class like my parents did


          • I agree.

            Access to higher education should be a matter of affordability, it should be a matter of deserving it and wanting it.

            The bar to admittance has to be raised. Higher average, higher marks, reward the effort, and not how much money the parents have. There are enough private universities out there to provide to those that can afford it.


          • vagonba:

            This has nothing to do with social justice, but with simple math, and you are not getting your numbers right:

            Not 29.000.000 but just 600.000 university students would completely wipe out ALL the available Venezuelan net oil income if we would invest on universities the same as other countries do.

            No more oil money – not a cent – available for health, primary and secondary education, police, justice, prisons and those other little things…

            So, if we act responsibly and devote first enough oil resources to health, justice, basic education, etc, the number of free-of-tuition university students is way, way less (maybe by a couple orders of magnitude) than that hypothetical 600.000 number.


            • Cut by half of the military budget and expenses (or 2/3rds) and give it to the universities, demand high average marks to get in (that means also suspensions for those that are not achieving requirements) and create more tech schools with shorter careers.


              • I shall be the Devil’s advocate but this is nothing new: lots of thugs will burn lorries and attack people everywhere because “we are elitist by demanding only the ones with high average marks (do you mean from school? and if fake? or from a test?)”
                I agree with you but we have been here already.
                It is again a matter of explaining things to the whole population, opening up a debate first to explain the whole why before people like Jauas and proto-Jauas produce violence and try to create chaos.


              • PISA? Average of the last two years of high school? Plus an admission test?
                CNE had a test back in the time. Is it still being implemented?
                To get into the FAU-UCV I had to present this test, and also another test to see if I had the skills (3D vision, math, etc).
                What are the parameters for admission these days?


              • OK. 30, 40 years ago the test alone would have been enough. Now public schools have such horrendous levels that fewer pupils from there would make it to university.
                Obviously, I don’t plead for just letting them in. But we need
                1) to improve primary and secondary school levels for public schools and
                2) inform people that admission tests are not “elitism” but that elitism is what exists right now whereby if you go to a public school you are bound to lose half of the time because teachers do not show up and a lot of the rest is going to be wasted as well because teachers are so bad or you are too many or you don’t have books.

                So again, it is a matter of explaining the whole picture but you can only do that if
                a) you are yourself aware of the whole picture
                b) you don’t consider The People idiots (I know you, Carolina, don’t, but it seems a lot once they get to government or to higher places do)
                c) you then take the time to carry out a comprehensive information program to inform the people before they start burning buses and lorries and cities


  2. This a very dificult issue.
    I went to a public University, I could not affort private University.
    I do see your point, I always go for a balance aproach, the system as is now is not working.

    I do support 100% the claims, just pay.


    • ernestoyepez:

      If you (like me) could not afford a private university but could go to a public one, then you really were NOT a really poor person.

      Think about it: Your family was wealthy “enough” to support an adult member during at least 5 years without generating income. A really poor family can’t do that.

      That’s the reason why IUTIRLA-like university-level institutions have boomed since the late eighties: They roughly provide a “good enough” education for people that must work to survive, and therefore need a very class flexible schedule. In Venezuela, the really poor people that want a post-secondary education must pay for it.

      As I see it, the only way out of this fundamental contradiction is for the scholarships to include not only tuition but also a minimum wage, and in order for the system to be sustainable in time, they can’t really be scholarships but credits to be returned. The credit system may be public, private, or a mixture of both, but the money must be returned back.


      • I discuss this with several friends who are University theachers, and very inform in what education is.
        Higher education is not for all people, but this must be a choice not and imposition.
        We must not look in other countries we must find our way.
        I do agree that changes must be made, and financing is one of them, but as I wasnt really poor in the manner you mention I was poor enoguht to see the problems, a new system must find a way to include those who can pay, those who cant and those who need the extra help, in the current system the first are the one who can access education, the seconds struggle really hard to do It (it is never easy), and there are the ones who never get the chances.

        As I said a reform is necesary, but the noise of all this problems sever the true, higly inteligent people, the most capable in our country wont or cant follow and schollar carreer, and those who do are in a bad spot, I wonder if any of us will take a position in a University.


    • Guido’s take is dead on. Now that I’m a professor (Physics at USB) I’ve been seeing some of the inanity of our administrative culture and the corruption and incompetence.

      However, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, Juan Cristobal’s point is not one we should just dismiss given the current crisis. The unspoken consequence of Juan’s proposal (partial or total privatization of colleges and universities) would be a diminished student count, which would lead to limited social mobility and the unrest it eventually embodies. If you are annoyed by references to “las élites oligarcas” or “los amos del valle” you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet Bubba.

      But then you have to ask the question: why does everyone need to go to university? To some extent there is a culture of “chapeo” whereas you are only relevant if you have a title (just look how medics or lawyers have fits of indignation when they’re reminded that they do not have a doctorate and therefore are not “midóctol”, and our soldiers clearly care quite a bit about those cute little embroideries on their shoulder pads), but to my mind the main reason why everyone needs to go to college in Venezuela is economical: your only honest chance of earning enough income to make ends meet is to get a 5-year degree and fight tooth and claw in an already overcrowded market to get the right job (barring of course Miss Venezuela for the ladies… sad, I know). If you have a High School diploma or an Associate’s Degree you should bless your lucky stars if you can earn enough in commissions and tips in order to make a living. In an economy that needs so many TSU’s (just try to find a half competent electrician or plumber), we pay them a pittance… I can still hear my mom (TSU en mercadotecnia) drilling into my head from childhood that I should get a 5-year degree so I could avoid the hardships she went through.

      Also, and to a large extent this one’s 100% on chavista idiocy, a fair chunk of our students (at least in science and engineering) just look at their degrees as a plane ticket to a better life abroad. Recently you posted a link on twitter pointing out that a large chunk of Venezuelan immigrants to the US hold a Bachelor’s or more. That is money the Venezuelan state has spent in training that is being reaped by our neighbors (close and far) and a massive waste of resources. And it is fully self-imposed: you kill local industry and make innovation counter-revolutionary and there’s nowhere for those engineers to go, so the best (or those with dual citizenship or wealth) leave the country. How you develop with such a wasteful model is something I adscribe to the Misterios Dolorosos of the Chavista Faith.

      I believe that what I’m trying to say is that the problem is far more complicated than what most people are willing to discuss. 100% private will not really work, the current model is mostly dead and very few people inside and outside of the universities are willing to discuss changes because it might go against their entrenched interests.


      • There’s a category confusion here: imposing tuition fees doesn’t imply “privatization.” I think Juan’s take is that you need fees in the context of public as well as private institutions, with subsidies based on need for qualified applicants.


        • Oh no, I understood that, I did not mean to say that Juan’s position was for full privatization. What I meant to say was that within the whole spectrum of possible ways to restructure our universities there are options that will imply social unrest and harsh resistance from within the universities even though those solutions would be in actuality better.

          We *really* need to rethink our universities but there are economical and social realities that disallow some of the options that Juan would support.


      • I agree with you Jesus.

        But perhaps a government funded scholarship program to go to USB would help. It can be something like as default you have to pay, but if you want to be on a scholarship, well you get it, no questions asked. It is about changing the ‘default’ option.

        Another thing is to create awareness to among students on how much it costs for them to be there, and get serious about studying hard to deserve that.

        I am a Mecanico cohorte 02 from USB. I saw left and right people that had been there for years, failing the same courses over and over and they didn’t seem to enjoy at all their classes. One of the key issues with universities is also how dogmatic the system is. Pushing kids through the system that they don’t want to be part of. When they graduate, they end up doing something completely different that what they were trained for and that they enjoy a lot more. Even if they graduated, it is a shame that a spot on that university went to someone that didn’t really make any use of it. There are many ways to squander.

        So do you really need a free for all USB to guarantee social mobility? I think you are mistaken. To create social mobility one should first focus on the early stages of education. And that is preschool. And work your way up. A critical part needs to be trully vocational help. It doesn’t help anyone or sociatey of someone wants to be a dancer (and it is a talented performer) and it goes to the USB to study Electrical Engineering, something he or she will dread nor will practice. And to JC’s point. On average, USB students can afford to pay for their school (mainly because social injustice and their ability to get better basic education). In fact, many students are even better off than their teachers. You are not helping social mobility when you are giving away for free something that they could pay, for them to retain their middle or upper class status.

        I am the perfect example of such a thing. I was an middle (mid upper?) class student, with car an everything and nothing to worry about studying at a free university, that even if I had wanted to pay tuition (and I did), I couldn’t. Such system is not even in place. Metrics for lowering student cost (at least then) were nor developed.


        • Rodrigo I went through your post nodding in agreement.

          I too have seen students go through the same course 7 or 8 times and, when asked why were they doing that when they clearly weren’t interested in the subject or the coursework they just said that they were “trying out” the career. When I replied that the only reason they could do that was that their parents were not paying and, if they were, they would find themselves staring at the unfriendly side of a thumbscrew they would just shrug their shoulders and smile. Utterly shameless and wasteful.

          I agree that a 100% free university isn’t the only option, for instance I would really like for universities to allow for anyone who wishes it to take courses and to pay for them with some level of public or private financing. Then if you finish a certain number of courses within a time window (and have proper grades) you can enter as a regular student if you so choose. Something like that could provide the social mobility I’m concerned about.

          Early education is absolutely key and it has been historically neglected by our country. My fiancée’s father is a teacher with more years of experience than the time I’ve been breathing and I earn more than he does… and that’s saying something. It’s insane.

          I would not have been able to pay my way through Uni (Physicist cohorte 00) and most likely would have required the assistance we are talking about but I am paying for it in a sick twisted way with my sad salary as a professor… the pathetic thing is that instead of helping someone else follow in my footsteps, the current system is actually shutting down the doors while at the same time chanting a hymn of equality and openness.


      • Jesus and Rodrigo,

        Don’t you think it’s absolutely insane for a person in STEM to stay in Venezuela? I mean, you get an excellent education from USB that allows you to go to grad school FOR FREE somewhere where your parents never payed taxes and where you’re likely to make at least 10 times what you would make in Venezuela?

        I started my masters at USB and retired after only 2 quarters. I was making like $200 a month, working like a burro teaching a class. This left little to no time to study for my classes, let alone for research. I decided instead to tutor to save money(that paid a lot better than teaching) and wait until I got into a US University.

        In my mind it makes no sense whatsoever to stay in Venezuela as an Engineer/Scientist. The only people making money in Venezuela are the cambieros


        • Insane? In some regards, yes, batshit. Salaries are a cruel joke, as you point out. But what you say that one should take advantage of the degree in order to emigrate is precisely part of my criticism of chavismo’s take on well… pretty much everything. The engineers and scientists we would need in order to get us out of this hole are leaving by the planeload (and by Feynman, I can’t wait to wrap up my doctorate to join them). A teaching assistant in a third tier university in the US can earn more than a Full Professor in Venezuela.

          As for research, well it’s hard to spend time working on cutting edge whatever if you don’t have access to journals, materials or instruments to work with and you have to get home early to avoid rampant insecurity. Oh and do it not earning enough to put food on the table or a roof above your head… that’ll motivate you!


        • It is absolutely insane.

          Now what are going to do to change that? That’s what Jesus and I are discussing here. The reality is obvious. The solution not so much. I don’t see your contribution to the argument here.


          • My point is that Venezuela is not a good country for engineers and scientists right now. There doesn’t seem to be much demand in either the private (focused on consumption) or the public sector (basically outsourcing all jobs to Brazilian / Iranian / (Bela)Russian / Chinese Companies). This is why Maduro & Co don’t really lose much when they take away the funding from these Universities that produce engineers that either leave the country or go into the business of importing. How to solve this could be the subject of a PhD dissertation.

            In the big picture of things, I’m not sure Venezuela spends that much on public universities. I know for sure they barely spend anything in funding research. My solution would be to (a) Get rid of money dumps (gas subsidies, giving away oil, nationalized companies in red numbers, FONDEN, BANDES, CADIVI, Empresas de Guayana, etc, etc) in order to increase the budget of Universities (b) I would improve the salaries of Professors, but (c) I would also make University Professors fight to get grants. One of the things that pisses me off about Venezuela is that Universities seem to depend almost entirely on their annual presupuesto. Making Professors apply for grants would make research a lot more competitive by also giving them the incentive to make more money. Here in the US Universities are mostly private, but they get a S**T ton of money from grants from the NSF and a bunch of Departments such as the DOE, not to mention private companies.

            As for the private sector. I think the Government has to make changes in regulations. With the possibility to import via CADIVI, and ‘sobrefacturando’, you’d have to be crazy to try to produce locally or to invest in something other than space at a shopping mall to sell your imported goods. Getting rid of CADIVI alone would put an end to this ridiculously appreciated Bolivar, making it more feasible for businesses to produce products in Venezuela.


            • I agree that endowments and grants for research are the way to go. Also researches must actively seek funds from industry.

              It is not a good place for engineers right now. But I do see tons of interesting opportunities to be developed here. Not everything is a terrible and not everything depends on a government policy.


  3. I wonder: is the USB as inefficient as the UCV or UC? I think not. Even among departments at the UCV or UC things vary a lot. USB does not give “cupos de estudio”, as far as I know, for professors. UCV, UC and ULA and all the rest do give a lot of those cupos to employees and to the student’s unions, which then SELL those seats. There is a huge mafia here.

    Nobody wants to discuss that. Nobody wants to discuss openly what is the composition of expenses: what’s the share for professors, for cleaning people, how many cleaning people or secretaries does UCV versus USB have and why. We should be able to examine this data: you and me. We should be able to get open data about all this and ask questions.

    But we should be doing that for all of Venezuela’s public institutions.

    We don’t have an open debate on this. We have never had one, one where we could have the rectors and minister and some education specialist discuss in front of the TV with all the data in hand, charts and all. We think the public, the Venezuelan population, is too stupid to debate on this.

    You should not look at China only, even if that model suits you more. Look at Germany or Belgium, the Netherlands or Sweden, all systems with different degree of fees. They are not doing that bad, even if some have had to adapt with the times.

    Still today Venezuela public universities were offering a higher quality for many careers: from law to engineering fields. I still remember: “favor abstenecerse egresados de derecho de la Santa María”. Not for nothing Cilia Flores is an alumna from there.

    One of the problems we got was that quality for primary and secondary schools went to pot in the last 2-3 decades (some public schools maintained some standards for a couple of years longer).
    That is related to the fact the State had to give an ever higher share of the education budget to universities. But perhaps there is a way to do things first, like getting clear accounting on where the money is going. I understand there are thousands of phantom workers at the UCV and UC.
    We can only force all the involved parties to publish the data they have so that every thinking person can get a view.


    • Kepler:

      Regarding your opening question, if I recall correctly, at the turn of the century we at USB were very proud that we only had 2 administrative employees per 1 professor, making us the most efficient Venezuelan university by this metric.

      Then I went to work in a Spanish PUBLIC university were the ratio was 3 professors per administrative employee (and the students had to pay part of the tuition)…


    • I‘m a Professor at UC. There are some accurate statements, but I‘m not sure about the “phantom“ workers, that I do recall when I worked at Carabobo‘s Government, so it‘s not difficult to notice. But I do have other considerations.

      Our problems are not only the Finacial dependency that leads to some kind of maneuvering, just to make possible the accomplishment of simple taks: print exams, copy them, etc. It‘s our culture, that I have had the opportunity to compare with UCV (I teach Graduate Courses there), and we‘re very similar. We all just try to survive the system. Those of us who do Research are seen as some ‘weirdos‘ losing time for stuff that doesn‘t mean by any chance extra income. Our peers think of us in that way.

      But the most tragic part of all this is that we have the WORST Authorities any Educational Institution could ever have. Instead of Acadamy, we have Businesses, their business is to reach power, and keep it. With power, comes other important and lucrative activities, so you have people with no Academic merits making decisions for those of us who DO have an academic background and activities.

      Morally that‘s unbearable, and that is why I consider this Governement to be an accomplice of the decadence of the University, because they know it and beyond their speech, they do nothing about it. It‘s not just financially, it‘s morally unsustainable.


  4. Hopefully “PJ” gets its key policy prescriptions together in good time a pithy, understandable (perhaps alliterative) platform for December elections…and hopefully they outline the difficult public policy choices that voters need to consider so governors can obtain urgent mandates to ensure the prioritization of the critical infrastructure (human, technological, transportation, social, financial) required to start addressing the security and prosperity and freedom gaps across the country.


  5. My respects to this post; I couldn’t agree more. If someone thinks the state of universities is a problem of chavismo, someone is pissing outside the pot.


  6. Amazing stuff, JC.

    Before I expanded the article, I thought we were going down the road of questioning the structure of universities as institutions themselves. This was pretty good too, though.

    For example, what you mention about the graduating economist going to work for whatevertransnational, does it not put into question the very use of the discipline of economy? Can it be different? How?

    If universities where well and sanely funded and administered, would they, even then, address the skills and knowledge bases that might be optimally useful for us to learn? Do they really address our needs even in theory?

    As I said, kudos. I have been really liking posts on the site lately (except the one about how we aren’t observing imaginary beings’ institutions with enough respect, but whatever).


  7. I have been having this discussion with friends and from in and out academic institutions here.

    There a few take aways from the discussions I have had:
    -One, wages are out of this world low leaving professors with little mental space for anything else that ask for their shares of the rentas. Specially when free handouts are given to other countries and embassies are being refurbished.
    -It seems like the academic world doesn’t seem feasible to have the status quo of free tuition to be removed. I disagree. I believe a scholarship program would be the way to go.
    -They understand that more resources should go to primary and secondary and they think it is unfair that as a gremio they can’t seem to get their shit together to ask for better conditions. The attitude is, ‘tough luck on them’.

    One thing is that universities have the clear benefit of being more organized, larger less geographically sparse than teachers. Allowing them to to get these protest going a lot easier.

    A shocking view that I saw on professors is their reluctance to actually go get funds. In other places such as Germany and US it is part of the researchers role to actively look for funding. Universities behave like research centers. That seems to be beneath them here. The work and funding should come to them, and the argue that it is no professors business to be pitching their research to companies in order to get funding.

    I must say that these are the views of only a few professors. I am sure that there are more progressive people out there.


  8. I completely agree with Juan here. Not only there is not enough money subsidize everyone but it also creates mind-numbing waste. I remember talking to a dean from a public university there and he told me there were 6 Math 101 classes but only the equivalent to one got a passing grade… There a lot of people who just completely give up on a certain class because it doesn´t cost them any money to just retake it later on. If you had to pay something I can assure you you wouldn´t see this.

    Actually, a lot of people sign up for a public university for all the free goodies they get. Think about it, subsidized bus tickets, subsidized food, and sometimes becas fundayacuchos. I knew several people who basically worked full time but they were “students” too to just take advantage of these things.

    Juan, I know Chile has a model closer to what you are implying, however there has been many protests around this system. Do you think they were justified in someway? Do you think this model can be replicated here?

    I’m not an expert but is not surprising that schools like la catolica or U de Chile have MANY faculty members with Ivy League education….


    • “I remember talking to a dean from a public university there and he told me there were 6 Math 101 classes but only the equivalent to one got a passing grade…” A lot of professors here seem to think that the more students they flunk the better they are; and they love bragging about it. I had a professor in college that flunked a lot of students on our first exam. The school right away felt that statistically that was very unlikely, so on the very next class we had an “observer” to determine what was wrong. It turned out that the professor’s English was difficult to understand and was therefore replaced.


      • It is a little bit more complicated than that. After spending 8 years helping low income kids preparing them for Venezuelans entrance exams, you realize the increasing low quality of primary and secondary education. And I don’t mean only public schools. Even the private ones have terrible flaws. If something is an irrevocable true in this debate is that the first stages of education need more money ASAP


    • The Chilean model has its flaws, but I much prefer the system we have now rather than the system Ms. Roja-Rojita is now proposing, which gets us closer to the Venezuelan / Argentinian model.

      People are marching against the current education model here in Chile. Sadly, it’s more of an emotional, ideological debate than a rational one. And the worst part is that they’re winning.


  9. think a reality check is in order. Giving away free tuition is a deeply regressive policy, one that we cannot afford and shouldn’t have in place even if we could.
    Tarsicio Castañeda wrote a book on Combating Poverty: Innovative Social Reforms in Chile During the 1980s, which I read originally as Para combatir la pobreza : política social y descentralización en Chile durante los ’80. He made the point that under Pinochet, a relatively higher proportion of public education expenditures went to the poor than under the Allende government. Free tuition at universities was ended- a subsidy which benefited the better off- and the money saved went to primary and secondary education. During the Pinochet regime, there was a substantial increase in secondary school enrollment- which benefited the poor.

    Do not look to the US for financing models for university education. The student loan program has resulted in tuition outpacing inflation for decades- with corresponding increases in administrative staff per student.


    • Thanks, Boludo, for bringing that up. It’s good to see a real Texan view on the matter. Gringuización is not always the solution.

      Also I wonder how Juan hopes to prevent Chilean conditions.


    • Well, there’s one thing that the US does right as far as financing students:

      If, upon graduation, you work for a non-profit or for the government, such as a teacher in the public schooling system, you incrementally have your student debt forgiven depending on the amount of time you work in the sector. The most obvious example is in teaching, but social services, outreach programs, etc., also fill the bill. Part of that is because students with little or no experience make relatively poor money in these fields and so its seen as a value-added incentive to encourage them to go this route.

      Beyond that….the whole thing is a scam. Textbooks in particular make me irate. Fortunately, I’ve never been compelled to use departmental texts, and while I do switch editions every few years, I usually crossreference older books such that students can use them if the have access to the previous editions.


        • At many universities in the US, the textbooks are changed on a yearly basis for no other reason than to make the previous one “obsolete” so that the publisher stays in business.

          Granted, in some fields the information that is relevant changes rapidly, but in many it does not.

          Used textbooks then become useless, unless some few like pitiyanqui give some way to still make them “valid”

          New textbooks can run in the $100-$200 range, used ones half or less.

          When I went to college in the US, textbook editions were not so frequently changed, allowing one the sale of texts at the end of the semester to “recoup” some of the money spent. Some campus bookstores even had buy back programs that gave you the chance to “trade in” so you could buy the next semesters texts and avoid the hassle of selling them on your own.

          Textbooks in the US = Major Scam by Publishers


          • Thanks. That’s not the case for textbooks for schools or is it?
            There should be a law that regulates that. I think that the only things where you would need yearly updates is perhaps on “modern history” (if there is such a subject) or
            on concrete software. Even in computer science, at least for a large part of the studies I don’t see why they need to change books every year. The basic algorithms stay the same for a couple of years and if something fundamental really comes through, that can be better taught by accessing articles or the like.
            So, for most subjects a change every 4-5 years would be OK…sometimes even longer.


            • Well, its a bit more complicated than that.

              The majority of the books I deal with are economics or finance themed and while the editions change to make a more contextual case (i.e., rather than cite the Great Depression or the 1980s stagflation regarding economic policy failures, they now reference the more recent meltdown), these are often sidebars to the actual concepts. Keynesian economics hasn’t changed all that much in 80 years. Likewise, the fallout from over-leveraging your assets isn’t that hard to understand, and computing the leverage ratio, even less so…but gee, paying $212 for an edition that refers to Bear-Stearns rather than a $19.99 for a book that points to an S&L or Enron….totally worth it!

              However, with the market disruption of Amazon and others, providing access to many users over a vast geographical area rather than those at the local campus, the secondary market was cutting into the profits of the publishers. So now, they make campus specific custom editions (which literally have maybe 3-4 pages changed from the normal addition), “bonus” online content, (no value-add, just a few notes from the instructor), exclusive online access to premade tests and subject material (which can be purchased separately from the book for the bargin-basement price of $60 per class per semester), and other goodies that completely destroy the market value of normal books for students who are required to have the exact text. One year (two semesters) of texts for most business majors is somewhere between $800-$1400 for texts they might not use again and which there is no resale value aside from the campus bookstore which limits how many they buy back and typically pays 10% of the face value of the book. This is a recent development of the last 2-4 years.

              Add into this that departments that mandate their entire staff use the campus “specials” typically receives some sort of kickback from the publishers, usually $2 – $10 per volume for the “department” budget.

              Most professional academics (disclaimer: not a professional academic – occasional is more accurate. Most people would giggle if one uses my name and professional in the same sentence) here are opposed to the practice, but are often overriden by the department head who sees a revenue stream and, as the case sometimes is, might be a author/coauthor of the book. Local state uni’s chemistry department is in this instance. Vested financial interest and pecuniary gain trumps students every time.

              Even so, while there’s a lot fundamentally wrong with the US system there are some good parts that could certainly help the Venezuelan higher education system.

              Aside from books, a quality education can be had by most students for $3,000 – $10,000/year. The bad press of $200,000 undergrad student debt is typically an outlier or due to some spectacularly bad decisions on the part of the student/parents who had no real idea of what they were getting into in the first place.


  10. Juan, it would be quicker if you make a post about what you think should not privatized in country.
    According to your school of thinking nothing should be in the hands of the State and no measures should ever be general, because they are called “regressive”.


    • *yaaaawn*

      This is what happens when people don´t bother to take an economics 101 class. No grasp on basic concepts like opportunity costs, deadweight losses and externalities.

      Your comment is purely based on a gut feeling and a outdated concept of social justice.

      In any case, as with everything else in this country, the public university system is dysfunctional and has been like that pre-Chavez.

      For what it’s worth, I come from a long line of college professors (which by the way makes me lower-middle class nowadays) and attended a public university myself. I´m no outsider.


    • Forget the names: how do you defend the down-sides of the no-tuition public system Juan named in the post?


    • Bruni, I think there is a big role for government in addressing the deep inequalities in our society. Sadly, giving free tuition for Med School to someone who lives in the Country Club … is not going to help solve inequality.


      • Juan, I perfectly understand your point, but I disagree with you. First because I don’t think the problem of Venezuelan Universities is tuition. The problem is deeper. You cannot have employees retiring with full pay when they are 42! This is possible in current Venezuela’s Universities. The other problem is that the term “professor” is very large. In many cases, they are just the equivalent of our lecturers or TA’s. So the requirements for an academic career are not as rigorous as they should be, and the result is that salaries for everybody are watered down. The third problem is that Universities in Venezuela are seen just as factories to produce professionals, both by the government and by industry. They are not seen as key centers of knowledge where solutions for the government and the private sector problems can be found. Where are Venezuela’s research endowments? Where have you seen a productive sector put money for a grant competition in their area? How about the government?

        Here in Québec the producers of pork, the milk industry, the producers of orchids, the aeronautic industry, the electric car industry, the forestry industry, just to name a few, create tailored-made grants and endowments for researchers to come up with ideas that respond to their needs. The government,on the other hand , creates consortiums, in telecommunications, in finance, in bigdata, in energy, in nanotechnology, in sustainbility to steer the research towards particular areas of development.


        • Bruni, in a nutshell, are you saying that if the government were run with your kind of thinking, then the university thing would work? If so, my root question comes back: Are the people who enter and run government the top notch people with your kind of thinking? It is precisely because I don’t think the best ideas are going to come from or even endorsed by people in government that I think government’s role should be more about ensuring quality and accessibility to education rather than running it.

          By the way, I didn’t see your reply to Juan’s argument regarding free tuition for Country Club students.


  11. I have several comments to make about this posting:
    The problem with the “model” is not public spending on universities, health care or the rest. In fact public spending is a mirror show because the “new” universities are not all that well funded either. Public grade schools and high schools are not fulfilling their initial promises. Hospitals and public health in general are understaffed, underfunded, and lack necessary supplies like medicines and reagents for blood exams. Crime control is non-existent. In fact there is some evidence that weapons that prisoners in the penitentiary system obtain while in jail are helping to supply gangs on the outside. And non-governmental sources of production and income have been gradually eliminated, to the point where almost everything has to be imported.
    The source of all this apparent failure is a problem of power. There is no real effort to rectify these malfunctions; rather, the aim seems to be to make everyone dependent on the government for their survival. Under this system protest becomes too costly, and people just acquiesce: they comply and seem to go along with the demands made on them.
    Finally I want to say a word about the protests at the autonomous universities: of course, funding and salaries are important, but perhaps more so is the need to defend plural thinking. If these institutions give in, there will be only one epistemology, one political model, and one way of expressing ideas.


  12. As things currently stand, I can see means testing and expanded scholarship programs being just one more avenue for bloating administration, and even more corruption and unfairness.

    It’d be nice if something was done about the gas subsidy.


  13. Germany’s public budget:

    Click on Bildung und Forschung (education and research).
    Now click further. Imagine we had such data just for education: all.
    Imagine now we could actually go deeper and deeper until we get to
    single university or school level and we had another view on costs per university
    (for books, cleaning workers and so on).
    Imagine everyone knew how many cleaning workers are employed for each
    escuela at the UCV/ULA/etc.
    I guess thousands of people would oppose any attempt to bring about such transparency.

    I think the Brits are even more open with the whole data.


      • Syd, at least if you click through after clicking on “Bildung” (education) you will see how the “pie” is shared in different subsections. On the right you see how expenses have evolved (bar chart). Now imagine you could go through such a graph so that you get the exact % and total for all the expenses…and, optimally, you could compare that to some reference.

        As I said: a lot of universities (not the USB) have hundreds and thousands of phantom “workers” and stuff like that. A lot of material gets stolen in this or that area. That data should come out if we – I mean anyone on the Internet – had access to the whole data.
        But, of course, that should also go for FONDEN.


    • Even if the powers that be wanted transparency, they are too incompetent to gather this data accurately and make it available in a readable way.


  14. I really struggle to see your point here, how is making students pay for education the right thing?. While it’s probably true most students come from middle class families (I think you are mistaken if you think they’re upper class. Stats?) that is mainly due to a poor public primary/high school system; surely we should be fixing that, not closing the door on the few that manage to make the jump from public high school to public uni.

    Also, I’m not buying the argument that there’s not enough money to keep the universities, and assuming it was true that there’s none, there are other ways to finance education before asking a 18 year old for money. Think research, services, consultancy, etc.

    That students leave after they get their title? Sure, a lot of them do, not all, I’ll even say most of them stay (stats anyone?). What are their reasons for leaving?, again, shouldn’t we try to fix those first?.

    I really don’t understand when policies like this are proposed. Something like this ONLY affects the poorest in the country, with such high poverty in Venezuela how’s is that a good idea?.


    • “Also, I’m not buying the argument that there’s not enough money to keep the universities”….


      Are you new to this blog ? otherwise you’d know we are so broke we can´t even afford to further invest in the oil industry.

      Even if we could afford the CURRENT system in place. This system sucks.

      Think about this. Tuition at good colleges in the US costs tens of thousands of dollars…how much do you think the government is currently spending per student. 2000? 3000? How are we supposed to compete with the up-and-coming Brazilians, Chileans and Mexicans schools?


    • I left Venezuela after spending one month interviewing over 100 people for a research assistant position and finding that not a single one of the candidates was capable of solving some very basic science questions. It was depressing. I literally broke down in tears.

      They had all graduated from the new wonderfully advertised but utterly incompetent revolutionary universities. You can graduate people from schools, but graduating a class is not the same as educating a people.


  15. Re: So yes, let’s take to the streets and protest,
    but let’s not kid ourselves.
    This is a recurrent problem and
    it’s bound to rear its head again and again.

    The road to soldiering is greener,
    and still free to the deserving youth.
    Military life is like civilian life in many ways:
    for the most part, you work a regular job,
    have to keep your life, bills, housing,
    car and other things in order.
    Shooting guns and firing rockets is
    way more fun!
    [Pointy heads need not apply.]


    • I am ENTITLED to my piece of the pie.
      and I eat it.
      Because the dummies who grow the ingredients,
      the A–holes who sell them,
      and the ones who bake it,
      are EXPLOITING ME.
      I deserve my FREEBIES.


      • Life is great, and I plan to keep it that way.
        My boot’s on the fascist necks,
        Los encapuchados are my panas,
        and don’t you forget it.
        I’m the future.


  16. “we are so broke we can´t even afford to further invest in the oil industry.”. As I said, assuming this is true we should try to think around it before jumping for extreme measures. The research lab where I studied more than paid itself doing research and services for private companies, the medical school in the UCV runs the biggest hospital in the country (poorly, but that’s another issue), university facilities are leased for private events, etc. Think that some of the smartest minds in the country are in there why aren’t we using that power?.

    “Tuition at good colleges in the US costs tens of thousands of dollars…how much do you think the government is currently spending per student. 2000? 3000? How are we supposed to compete with the up-and-coming Brazilians, Chileans and Mexicans schools?”. I would say those are different countries, different cultures, different problems and different economies. If not I could go and say that most of western Europe has free or heavily subsidized education but I know is not a fair comparison. And in the end compete in what? How many students we graduate? The quality of education? What they go and do afterwards?. Maybe we need to define first what we want our Universities to do in our particular country?.


  17. Excellent topic juan, nobody dares talk about this and it’s so necessary

    I have been talking to some fellow professors (who by the way are chavista) about the need to reform the system, I’ve been selling them my point of view, and they seem to buy it.

    I think that public universities should become national universities, in which the tuition actually costs, and instead of getting a spot (el cupo) as is right now, you get a scholarship to pay for the tuition, the scholaship is subject to performance terms, if you fail them, you lose the scholarship and can continue to study if you pay (so, there is no denying of the right to education, you still have the option but you must pay, as with EVERYTHING). While on the scholarship every subject you fail, you have to pay it from your pocket to retake it (im not paying you to be a professional repeater).

    The tuition is subject to the socioeconomical level of the applicant, I’ve seen that on many universities in other countries, in which the amount to be paid is a function of the socioeconomic level, lets put this on a credit unit context:

    Socioeconomic level ——— cost factor
    very high———————— 10
    high ——————————5
    low ——————————–1

    Subject: math 101, credits = 3

    cost for a student of very high economic level (say, country club) = 3×10=30 cost units
    cost for a student of high economic level (upper middle class) = 3×5= 15 cost units
    cost for a student of medium economic level (middle class) = 3×2 = 6 cost units
    cost for a student of low economic level (lower middle or poor) = 3×1 = 3 cost units

    Also, the amount covered by the scholarship is proportional to the socioeconomic level, because if you are GOOD you deserve the scholarship, but it’s not the same to have a country club scholar, than a west-of-the-west one.

    Socioeconomic level ——— scholarship
    very high———————— 75%
    high ——————————90%
    low ——————————–100% + MW

    Where MW is a minimum wage.

    Of course, not everyone deserves the scholarship, a maximum number of scholarship students is to be implemented on each university. I agree that some % of the sons of university staff should get a %discount but not the whole scholarship.

    Payment ————————-% of total students
    scholarship ——————— 35%
    scholarship (handicapped)— up to 5%
    scholarship (sons of staff)—- up to 5%
    scholarship (sports)———– up to 5%
    cold hard cash —————- the rest

    Also, the famous “autonomia universitaria” should be enforced on a physical level, and I mean, that you can ONLY BE PHYSICALLY INSIDE of a university if you a) work there ; b) study there. Im sick of seeing buhoneros, beggars, and people who don’t have any business on a university inside of it. They may say “it’s a public space, I have the right to be there!!”, to which I respond “the maiquetia airport is also a public space and yet you don’t see people selling stuff all around or walking freely on the runway”. Can you enter on PDVSA facilities? NO, and even though PDVSA is a public company and it’s spaces are public spaces. Same with the university. This is for security reasons (avoid looting, damaging of structures and the like)

    Another way to increase funding would be to use the university for the development of local/regional/national projects, instead of consultancy firms or even worse: foreign companies that charge you 300% and then they outsource the project :S. That’s the whole purpose of the “empresas rentales de la universidad”!!

    Somebody said up there that professors should look for funding outside of the university, like for instance, working on a project for a private company, the problem with that is the freaking “exclusive dedication” thingy, you simply can’t. The definition of “exclusive dedication” should only apply to teaching,not working on anywhere else or doing anything else!

    Also, simplify the funding structure, for instance, at LUZ let’s say you want to raise funds for a lab by offering courses, then you have to set it up with the according authority (divison de extension I think), do the course, the money raised goes to the faculty or university as a whole (not to your lab), they keep a certain % and then you have to ask the administrative vice-rectorate buy the things you want to buy with the money you raised for your lab (which in itself is a pain in the bodily sitting devices)… Each department and/or each lab should have their own “ingresos propios” (self funding) account, money raised by that department/lab staff goes there and is spent with the approval of the department/lab assembly as they see fit (but notifying upper authorities). This could imprve lab equipment or even fund the department’s research projects on a descentralized way (I mean, not having to apply for funding to the central research funding authority of each university).

    And the list goes on and on and on, but I think I have bored you enough with this :p


  18. Well, in a functioning country, subsidizing education gives you a larger pool of skilled workers the economy can utilize. This helps the economy, and can be very valuable and worth it’s buck.
    Not so in Venezuela obviously, so you may be right for this specific case.


  19. Funny, nobody has mentioned one of the most absurd problems of public universities: It’s pensions. Currently a Professor retires after 25 years of work. And the University has to pay for this. I always give the example of a close relative who graduated at 21 and became a Professor. Actually worked for 35 years, not 25 and got the pension. He remarried when he was 40 to a 28 year old. When he died the pension was transferred to her (100%) 46 years had gone by, it is now 66 years. If she lives to be 85, it would be a total of 81 years. Thus, when this person was hired, the University, unknowingly, acquire an 80 year commitment in salary of which only 35 years were actual work, only because this person wanted to work longer. Most don’t.

    The problem Juan is that the deep restructuring that you are asking for is not taking place, nor do I think will take place in the next few years, while the universities die a slow death.

    My quibble is why the universities waited five years to protest so strongly? Why were they afraid before? Is it because Chávez is gone? When Chávez came to power, a Full Professor a Cabinet member, a General or a TSJ Magistrate made roughly the same. Today, there is a factor of ten difference, in favor of politicians. That is what is truly sad, how long before this exploded.

    Dont want to make this a post…


    • Indeed, when some of my colleagues told me that since I started teaching as a TA in ’07 that meant that I could retire in my late 40’s, I could not believe it. For a scientist, the years between 35-55 are the strongest years of research and I found it insane that you could retire so young. But you should add to that the fact that in many universities those very professors who retire can be, and are, immediately rehired under the figure of the “Jubilado Contratado por Honorarios Profesionales” (since there is no replacement generation to speak of) effectively doubling their (admittedly small) salary.


    • Great point Miguel. It’s Mancur Olson at work. The university doesn’t care that its pensions are ridiculously expensive because “no tiene dolientes” – the logic of collectiva action at work.

      If the students realized that the pensions come from their tuition, they would be up in arms. But there is nobody guarding that the public’s money is being used correctly.


        • Bruni,hehe…. I have noticed this a lot as well,with many guys.The status quo is always taken so seriously.Good for you to mention it.My tactic is to ignore it but it never goes away.But hey, their loss :)


      • They can only realise that if there are people there telling them. And they can do that effectively if they produce simple charts showing “look, this whole chunk is going for pensions, and of this, more than X% are for people who only worked for 25 years”


    • Good point about the model, but that is the model that exists for a lot of public servant jobs in Venezuela.

      You may not realize that the most outrageous comment in your post is the fact that a 21 year old was made a professor. I know he or she wast not made a full tenure professor, but even being made an instructor with no PhD is unheard of in most parts of the world. People with master’s degrees can be adjuncts, but never be in tenure track.

      Part of the issue with the universities in Venezuela (having worked in one myself) is that they do not foment high quality work from anyone. Becoming a professor has to be a competitive process that motivates professors to teach well and do good work. Being accepted into college also has to be a more competitive process. Admittedly, it is not easy to enroll in some competitive careers in the public unis, but in some, people linger for years. Some of the younger members of Chavez’s party were people who were “college students” for over 10 years in different universities. That’s outrageous! Because public higher ed is a right of all people, it becomes impossible to kick people out of the university even when they repeatedly fail required coursework. I met some of the dumbest people while teaching in Venezuela, dumb because they had opportunities for learning that they did not take. But I also met some truly admirable and intelligent people whose talents were being stifled by an academic system in need of upgrading.


      • That’s exactly my point Mark!

        The problem I see with Juan’s post is that education would be for the one that can afford it, not the one that deserves it.

        Here is one other take: my ex used to be a history teacher in a small private university. Two of his students never handed papers, didn’t show up for classes, etc. When he failed them, rich and influential parents protested, and my ex got reprimanded. When he complaint, he was fired.

        I undesrtand privatization has nothing to do with paying tuition in a public school, but I just want to illustrate who’s getting in.


        • I hear you. A former colleague of mine (who incidentally does not have more than a master’s degree but is a “Profesora” at a polytechnic institute) became Chavista and joined one of the Chavista universtities. As an idealist, she taught for almost two years WITHOUT RECEIVING PAY (though she was in payroll; no one was paid). One semester she failed a student who was enrolled in the class and had never shown up to class or turned in papers or taken tests. Turns out that student was politically connected, some sort of Bolivarian circle person. My colleague was fired. This was two years ago and she has not been paid for the two years of service. As Venezuelans say, she had to go back with her “tail tucked in” to work at the private polytechnic institute of the bourgeoisie she despises, but who at least show up for class.


      • In the 1940’s it was common for someone to enter the right out of school as an assistant professor, it was the way to attract you but it does not matter, even if you come in as a TA,do Graduate work and later become a Professor, all those years as a TA or under scholarship count for your 25 year retirement.


    • Miguel, I did. I mentioned above that that is one of the major problems…a professor retiring at 42! It is, IMHO, the first problem of the system.


  20. Queman Cauchos cuando quieren subir el comedor de 0,5 Bs., no me imagino que va a pasar si les dicen que ahora tienen que pagar por la universidad.


    • Eso no es tan cierto. En la USB la gente voto a favor de aumentar el ticket de almuerzo de 8Bs a 500 Bs (de los de antes).

      Aunque siendo justo, costaria Dios y su ayuda que alguien deje a la USB/UCV cobrar matricula. De hecho creo que hay una decision del TSJ que decidio basicamente que ninguna universidad publica puede cobrar matricula


  21. Two buses were torched, shots were fired, and school property was destroyed. That’s was this is all about now, and absolutely nothing else. If Venezuelan’s do not confront the truths affecting them, then talk really is cheap.


  22. I agree that it is fundamentally pointless to subsidize higher education for people who could pay for it, and that it creates some pretty bad side effects (e.g. people taking too long to graduate), and that the system is in need of deep restructuring.

    But, in the end, the issue goes far beyond whether we should charge tuition fees or not. Even in countries where tuition fees are high, I suppose they only make up a minority of the universities’ revenue (even private ones). So, yeah, charging each student 10’000 USD for attending university might help, but it won’t make the problem of financing go away. Nor is a system with free or low tuition fees definitely doomed to fail.


  23. Interesting article and discussion, but want to bring up an alternative that I haven’t seen reflected here: progressive taxation.

    If as a society we decide to have a ‘free’ public education system (nothing wrong with that from an economic efficiency point of view) we can finance it through taxation that is progressive so that the kid in the Country Club (well, his/her family) pays much more than the kid in Catia. I’ll go even further, you could earmark some of the income taxes households pay to go into higher education if you want to foster some accountability.

    Look, there is probably a lot of tax evasion in Venezuela already, and setting up a high marginal tax rate for the top earners (40%, 50%?) may induce more fraud, but this is an alternative to finance our broken system


    • Yes it would be innefficient. Even if taxation is progressive, it would create waste from people independently of their socioeconomic status because there is no incentive to use these resources efficiently. Everyone knows that public schools are filled with students who become “institucionalizados” meaning they take 7-9 years to graduate. Not to mention that students choose their majors independently the job market situation. If people had to pay, say 10% of their income in college education, they would not be so quick to choose useless (in the grand scheme of things) majors like anthropology. I remember from Oppenheimer´s book cuentos chinos that there are 3 psychologists per every engineer in Argentina. That can only be done under this free system.

      It puzzles me to see that even people who are well educated are OBSSESED with FREE STUFF. Estamos enchavistados todavía.


    • that is what the marginal tax rate (40%) is at and if you are employed by someone, there is little tax evasion. Venezuelan tax evasion is with savings abroad, not salaries. Anyone that makes a “good” salary is a “contribuyente especial” monitored at the level of bank accounts and having to justify every deposit into accounts.


  24. Leí con mucha atención los numerosos comentarios y me da la impresión que la mayor parte de Ustedes son muy jóvenes y quizás no saben que esas discusiones ya las hemos tenido anteriormente. En primer lugar, el costo de la matrícula. Lo discutimos ampliamente en la USB, hace bastante tiempo. Personalmente pienso que los estudiantes deberían pagar, así como se piensa que es sano que uno pague una consulta psiquiátrica. Pero, aunque la matrícula fuera altísima, no sería suficiente para que las universidades lograran mantenerse (y no depender en forma tan humillante de los gobiernos de turno). Para que una universidad disponga de recursos suficientes, tiene que estar estrechamente vinculada a la vida económica y productiva del país. Tendría que cobrar ( y mucho) por patentes, consultas, investigaciones. Eso, en la Venezuela actual es imposible. Pero aún anteriormente, en nuestro país no existe la costumbre de pagarle a los conferencistas, ni recurrir a las universidades para buscar la solución de los problemas. Con FUNINDES, la USB hizo un ensayo interesante, que superaba cualquier limitación en cuanto a la exclusividad de dedicación de los profesores. Pero debo decir, que aún en las mejores épocas PDVSA prefería por ejemplo contratar carísimo a un asesor gringo que pagarle a un profesor venezolano. (Los venezolanos eramos muchas veces subcontratados por esos gringos, para hacer el trabajo).Hasta del problema de la limpieza y número de obreros, fueron temas que ya se discutieron. Maiz Vallenilla tenía gente de la Fuller que se encargaba del mantenimiento. En cuanto al tema, que uno de Ustedes cita, de la necesidad de tener un título universitario para ganar dinero en Venezuela, creo que el amigo ya no debe estar viviendo en el país. En la Venezuela actual, un plomero gana en media hora de trabajo, lo que gana un profesor jóven en un mes.Sobre los jubilados, me resulta difícil ser imparcial, pues soy una de ellos. En 25 años le di clases, más o menos a 4000 estudiantes venezolanos. Tuve que hacer mis trabajos de ascenso, ir a conferencias, escribir. Ahora, no se en cuanto está mi jubilación pero no llega a $1000, al cambio oficial. Y resulta que los profesores no somos en Venezuela los únicos que tenemos pensiones pagadas por el gobierno. Comparen lo que percibimos nosotros con las jubilaciones de los militares o el TSJ. Pero no se preocupen mucho por nosotros: con las pensiones actuales y sin poder comprar remedios, no vamos a durar mucho. Por lo menos ese problema se resuelve pronto!


  25. The “almost” free tuition (Bs. 80/year) has been in place long before the oil boom. Of course things have to change, but… as always, those with the justified socioeconomic status will be overrun by the pájaros bravos, who being able to pay, will find their palanca. Moral EDUCATION is the only way out


  26. How do you see the future in the context of university degrees accessible on internet becoming validated?

    And if you acknowledge that the oil money belongs to each Venezuelan, how do you justify having the poorest Venezuelans subsidizing the education (or anything else) of anyone not as poor?


    • Sadly, as is happening in most of the world, Internet-only degrees are not taken very seriously for anything other than technician-like positions or specialization courses. So, even if they become very popular, the world still needs universities that submerge people for a limited period of time (which may become a shorter period of time) in learning in depth, in acquiring work skills like teamwork, rhetoric, and good writing skills.

      You second question is unclear. If the oil money belongs to all in equal measures, any subsidies for non-basic, life-supporting goods should be available to all. Sure, if someone is homeless and has no food, he should get a bigger slice of the pie. But, when talking about 22 year old people raised in the supposed paradise of 21st century “socialism” (by a very lose definition of socialism), higher education is not a basic need and all Venezuelans should have access to it. You can’t deny people’s rights because you don’t like them or because they have less or more money than you.


      • Mark, on point 1, I mentioned that online degrees are becoming more validated with time. The ultimate example is MIT posting all their lessons online, for free. Their argument is that you may not have the MIT certification, but you’ll have the MIT knowledge, if you simply care to study it. This way, MIT says, even poor people in Africa can harness the knowledge of MIT graduates.

        The second point was less clear because it’s a build up from a long-time, recurring argument that I’ve been making on this blog: If the oil belongs to all, in equal shares, then any money the Government gets from it is tantamount to a regressive taxation whereby the poorest are paying the same amount as the richest. In percentage, it means that the poorest are paying 100% of their income, and the richest are paying close to 0%. For this reason, my argument is that the government should not spend any crude revenue on anything other than cash distribution, because, regardless of the spending you come up with, even the examples you mention, are forcing the poor to pay for most of it.

        As to the spending examples you give, I agree there should be no denying people’s rights in government spending, I’m only imposing that the spending come from non regressive taxation, therefore not from oil monies.


        • I don’t feel I can speak to the monies point, but I see your logic.

          As a prof at one of MIT peer schools and one that is doing the same thing as MIT, I can tell you that MIT itself and any other school would not for a moment consider treating someone who has done all their coursework online in the same way as someone who went to the school. Why? Because one of the most important aspects of education is the debate with others, whether in science, humanities or the arts, the socialization with peers further advanced in their studies (including professors, graduate students) and scholarly activity such as research. Someday in the not-distant future, I think, a lot of those things may find equivalents online, but it is not happening now.

          There is another very important issue to consider in terms of comparing online education by real universities (there are plenty of online only ones, but those seem to be businesses primarily) and offline education by the same universities: self-selection. The people who choose to take courses online tend to be people who are super interested in the topics they choose to study. High motivation lead them to do the reading, the homework and to interact online with the instructor and other students. Motivation makes the course work for them. Compare that to the idea that you just transfer your average 200 student lecture to an online setting. Any university lecturer will tell you that a large percentage of people in your class at any given moment are not quite present (daydreaming, falling asleep, fantasizing) because at some level they do not want to be there. Imagine how bad it might get online…. I think that may be the largest obstacle to digital education: the students themselves.


          • I’m not claiming online *is* up to par, but because of its practical advantages, it *will* become a mainstream form of education.

            MIT is already offering alternatives for credit to those who took their courses online. Canada already has government sponsored remote schooling alternatives that provide valid degrees, which is accessible worldwide. Cornell and Stanford and Harvard are each coming up with their own models for online education.

            With so much online, and increasing, I would suggest a government consider providing free internet access, then testing for certification, perhaps even payment for the travel and credits of those students who pass the MIT tests after doing all their coursework online.

            It’s to not just think out of the box, but to open the box and step out.


  27. I am an alumni from the USB. I come from what you can say is an upper class family. I always thought I could pay my tuition. My friends which came from the same school as I also could have pay their tuition. In my college years (2000-2006) I was amazed how many freebies we get, 3 meals, bus, computer labs, and an excellent teaching staff. If you have no money they even gave you a beca which was likea a third of the minimum wage. Even though I thought how amoral was this system I wanted to study there because is the top school for engineering in the country.

    In contrast I see everyday at my job people graduated from revolutionary universities. I have an assistant which is graduated from UNEFA, top of her class in administration. She doesn’t know how to work with percentage (6th grade math). That is five years wasted.

    I like the system of Colombia where public schools charge from 0 to 10 min wages per semester. The payment is calculated according to your socioeconomic level (taxation is efficient in Colombia so the government knows how much your family makes). I also would like repitientes to be charged full price after the third time they see a subject.


    • Agree fully.
      (but allow me this: it’s “alumnus” or “alumna” unless you are conjoined twins, then you are alumni or alumnae :-p)


    • Cpc:

      Yeah, that’s outrageous…

      But, in a nutshell, the point here is that Venezuelan public universities have decades working very hard to make the rope to hang themselves.


  28. One of the things I was trying to do for the PISA idea was to ask university rectors to support the idea. A couple of friends of mine, university professors, managed to put forward this idea to all those rectors and a lot of university teachers. What happened?

    – A lot of them said that was not their business (PISA is about secondary schools, apparently for them pupils evaporate and students fall from heaven or rise from hell)
    – Others said the idea was too “political” (this is the petition)
    – Others were afraid (I don’t know what they had to fear
    finally, most said
    “No vale la pena”.
    The only “pena” they had to do was to sign the bloody petition.

    What do they get? They get millions of students who are not prepared for university and they have to deal with those students. They didn’t care for those students while said students are just pupils. They are living in their little cocoon.


  29. Just out of morbid curiosity, and I admit I am completely ignorant on the subject, but do the public or private universities have endowments that give them any sort of degree of independence or are they completely reliant on government stipends in the case of the former and tuition/donations in the case of the latter? Is there some statutory bar that would prevent them from developing such?

    The local flagship state university, is, as one professor I know states, “a tier one research institution hobbled by damned pesky undergrads getting in the middle of everything,” but even so, said school is in the top 10 year after year in patents, monetizes them, and has close to a half-billion in endowments.


    • Nope. Most of them don’t have endowments. Grants and independent, non-government sources of funding are basically unheard of. Plus, there are no such things as governments funding agencies that are relatively independent of the executive branch of government. The “autonomia” is to ensure that deans, presidents, provosts and the such are elected by university staff and faculty and not appointed by government and to retain ideological freedom and diversity (a lesson learned from the past, still important today). But, financially, there is no autonomy for public universities. Private universities are different, but they do not operate like private unis in North America or Asia.


  30. I’m a proud Ucevista, and i love very much my alma mater. I admit the social contract around the autonomous public Universities in Venezuela is broken. I admit the current status of the public universities is a consequence of having lost their voices -and leverage- in the distributive conflict around the chavista petro state. But we cannot dismiss that Universities are perhaps last bastion of resistance to the advance of the fascist chavista state. I do believe we must rethink public universities’ role in society. I just don’t think having this debate with the University under siege from the fascist forces, is productive -or fair-.


  31. Que yo sepa, la situación del país no es tan jodidamente crítica como para considerar privatizar la educación universitaria, que es una de las pocas cosas públicas de este país que medio sirve. Para empezar, el responsable de que sean puros clase media los estudiantes universitarios es el pésimo estado de la educación primaria y secundaria pública. En segunda, después de mandar al carajo el derroche de estos años y privatizar unas cuántas cosas, la educación pública debería ser sostenible, y más con un boom petrolero. En tercera, el conflicto social que se generará con esa medida dejará al Caracazo como una mera guarimba.


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