Dictatorship strips UNP students of scholarships and imposes greater restrictions

Amidst the elimination of scholarships, changes in requirements, and reduction of stipends, students who previously benefited from various types of academic aids will no longer be able to avail themselves of these, due to new adjustments by the regime

The scholarship system of the confiscated Polytechnic University of Nicaragua (Upoli), renamed the National Polytechnic University (UNP), which benefited thousands of students from low-income backgrounds, was unexpectedly changed without any notice on April 4th.

Amidst the stripping of scholarships, changes in requirements, and reduction of stipends, students will no longer be able to benefit from various academic aids due to new adjustments by the university administration, which is loyal to the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship.

Among these changes is the removal of the lunch benefit, which provided meals to students from all majors who kept a minimum GPA of 70%.

Now, only Nursing students have this benefit, UNP students informed DIVERGENTES. It is worth noting that since the beginning of the 2024 academic year, students have not received this benefit, but now “it has been made official,” the students point out.

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Dictatorship strips UNP students of scholarships and imposes greater restrictions
The scholarship students received an invitation at the end of March to sign their scholarship contracts, which was cancelled on April 2. The following day they were told that their scholarships had been cancelled | Courtesy

The monetary scholarship was also radically modified. Students who wish to benefit from it must have a minimum GPA of 95%, whereas the previously required GPA was 70%.

Additionally, this benefit used to include three monetary offers: scholarship A, which provided a stipend of 1,200 córdobas, scholarship B with a stipend of 1,100 córdobas, and scholarship C with a stipend of 1,000 córdobas. Now, there will only be a single stipend of less than 1,000 córdobas, but the exact amount has not yet been disclosed to the students.

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New requirements established for the monetary scholarship, now called the academic excellence scholarship | Courtesy

“They haven’t told us how much the scholarship will be. It is said to be 500 córdobas or less. In my class, there were 15 people who had this scholarship, and with the new requirement of a 95% GPA, only two people can apply, a classmate and myself. We will apply, but I still don’t think we will get it. It’s not certain,” says a 22-year-old student.

The monetary scholarship, now called the academic excellence scholarship, benefited more than 1,500 students, according to the students’ complaint. Now it is not known how many of them can apply with the new requirements.

According to the students, the required GPA is “almost impossible to reach,” as not even academically excellent students with GPAs between 90% and 94% are eligible to receive this benefit.

UNP has not provided official information about the changes

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UNP authorities have not informed about the changes in the other types of scholarships. Divergentes: Taken from Universidad Nacional Politécnica

UNP has not yet informed students about the new changes for other types of scholarships such as the housing scholarship, which provides accommodation for students living in apartments outside of Managua, and cultural and sports scholarships. The only thing students know is that there are also new requirements for these.

The university has not issued an official statement about the sudden change in the scholarship system, nor has it properly informed the students. The information has been revealed by the class presidents and members of the National Union of Nicaraguan Students (UNEN).

According to a young woman interviewed by DIVERGENTES, beneficiaries were called to sign their scholarship contracts on April 3rd, but the day before, they were informed that these were canceled and they had to go through the application process again, now according to the new conditions.

“After they canceled the signing of the scholarship forms, UNEN members came to the classroom to ask us to fill out a form with our personal information and a satisfaction survey about the university, the professors, and education. A week later, they told us we had to submit documents for the scholarship again, as it was not going to be for everyone. They didn’t even give us an official announcement. We are all confused,” says the student.

Exempting fees but suspending benefits

Although the reasons for this change have not been explained by the university, students believe it is due to the exemption of fees applied this year, 2024. “Since the university has become entirely public, we believe that is why they removed the scholarships,” a student says.

However, the rest of the public universities in the country, which do not have a confiscatory origin, do not require fees from students and still keep accessible scholarship programs for students from low-income backgrounds; as it is a right established in the Law of Higher Education Institutions’ Autonomy.

The number of students affected by the change is unknown, as the quantity of scholarships provided has only been sporadically informed by state institutions through their websites.

According to these, more than 400 students had the lunch benefit, and at least 1,500 had the monetary scholarship, only at the Managua campus. Many of these students were beneficiaries of both scholarships simultaneously.

Affected students are angry

According to the students interviewed by DIVERGENTES, the stripping of scholarships and the reduction of stipends will negatively impact them, as many students solely relied on the income from the monetary scholarship, or studied all day and did not have to spend money on food because they had the lunch benefit.

“I have classmates whose only income was the monetary scholarship. The monetary scholarship helped me cover my expenses because I received 30 dollars. Now with the reduction, it won’t even cover my student expenses. It won’t solve anything. Here at UNP, the administrative fees are much higher than in other public universities, such as the certificate fees,” says another 22-year-old student who has been a scholarship applicant since 2022. “My classmates are outraged,” she continues.

This third-year student, who requested anonymity to avoid retaliation, says she has been working since last year because her parents stopped covering her student expenses due to the worsening economic situation at home. For her, the 30 dollars from the monetary scholarship was extra income that eased her expenses. Now, the idea of quitting her job is unthinkable, she says.

While her academic GPA is above 95% and she should be accepted to receive the monetary scholarship, she warns that it is likely she won’t get it because the goal is to reduce the number of beneficiaries.

UNP students point out that there are increasing administrative and academic changes that affect them since the confiscation in February 2022.

The information we publish in DIVERGENTES comes from contrasted sources. Due to the situation in the region, many times, we are forced to protect them under pseudonymity or anonymity. Unfortunately, some governments in the region, including the Nicaraguan regime, do not provide information or censor independent media. For this reason, despite requesting it, we cannot rely on official, authorized versions. We resort to data analysis, anonymous internal sources, or limited information from the official media. These are the conditions under which we exercise a profession that, in many cases, costs us our safety and our lives. We will continue to report.