The Puerto Rican Higher Education System in an Era of Resistance/Refusal and Turmoil

In this unit we invite the community to consider Puerto Rican higher education’s unique position in the constellation of U.S. systems and how it embodies the description of “belonging to but not a part of.” We interrogate the multiple ways that it is largely rendered invisible in conversations about higher education in the US--although the system serves more students than 12 states. Here, we offer the issues of postsecondary opportunities for students in Puerto Rico and in the diaspora and highlight the ways in which students have fought to gain and maintain access.


Guiding Questions

  • Higher Education Landscape
  • Student Activism
  • Diaspora
  • How do we understand or read higher education in U.S. territories/Puerto Rico in relationship to power & colonialism?
  • What has higher education represented in Puerto Rico, historically?
  • What are Puerto Ricans’ relationships to U.S. institutions of higher learning?

Scholarly Engagements

Overview of Higher Education in Puerto Rico

Excelencia in Education (n.d.). Higher education in Puerto Rico. Washington, DC: Authors.
Excelencia in Education. (2019, May 9). The importance of colleges and universities in Puerto Rico. [Video]. YouTube.

Student Activism

Brusi, R. (2011). A new, violent order at the University of Puerto Rico. Graduate Journal of Social Science, 8(1).
Martinez, A. &  Garcia, N. M. #HuelgaUPR: The kidnapping of the University of Puerto Rico, students activism, and the era of Trump. Frontiers in Education, 3(84). 
Rosa, A. (2016). Student activists’ affective strategies during the 2010-2011 siege of the University of Puerto Rico. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy. 36(11-12), 824-842. 
Atiles-Osoria, J. M. (2013) Neoliberalism, law, and strikes: law as an instrument of repression at the University of Puerto Rico, 2010–2011. Latin American Perspectives, 40(5), 105-117. 
Montcourt, N. (2019, August 13). Memoria Viva: Una mirada a las luchas estudiantiles: Desde el año 1919 hasta los años 1980.
UPR-Junta de Gobierno. (n.d.). Junta de Gobierno. 


Rodríguez, A., Rosario-Ramos, E., Clasing Manquian, P., & Rosario Colón, A. (2020). College choice, interrupted: Understanding the choice processes of hurricane-affected Puerto Rican students in Florida. Journal of Higher Education,  92(2), 169-193.
Velazquez, M. (2016). Looking forward, working for change: Puerto Rican women and the quest for educational justice in Chicago. Centro Journal, 28(1), 126-153.
Haywood, J.M. (2017). ‘Latino spaces have always been the most violent’: Afro-Latino collegians’ perceptions of colorism and Latino intragroup marginalization. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 30(8), 759-782.
Third World Newsreel. ( 2020, December). Making The impossible possible: The story of Puerto Rican studies in Brooklyn College - trailer. [Video]. Vimeo.

Irizarry, J. G., Rolón-Dow, R., & Godreau, I. P. (2018). Después del huracán: Using a diaspora framework to contextualize and problematize educational responses post-maría. Centro Journal, 30(3), 254-278.
Rúa, M. M. (2010). Latino urban ethnography and the work of Elena Padilla. University of Illinois Press. 


Bischoff, S. (2017). Is English a Language Barrier to Public Higher Education in Puerto Rico?. Multilingua, 36(3), 281-311.
Carroll, K. S, & Mazak, C. M. (2017). Language policy in Puerto Rico’s higher education: Opening the door for translanguaging practices : Language policy in Puerto Rico’s higher education. Anthropology & Education Quarterly, 48(1), 4–22.
Martínez-Roldán, C. M. & Quiñones, S. (2016). Resisting erasure and developing networks of solidarity: Testimonios of two Puerto Rican scholars in the academy. Journal of Language, Identity & Education, 15(3). 151-164.