As the spring semester begins at many university campuses in the U.S., some mainland schools have opened their doors to Puerto Rican students displaced by Hurricane Maria, the storm that ravaged the island last September.
New York University, Tulane University and Brown University, among other schools, have introduced various programs to accommodate students who cannot yet return to their respective campuses.
Many Puerto Rican universities experienced severe damage during the storm, and while some are back up and running, others are still without electricity or are only partially functioning. Many mainland assistance programs, such as Tulane’s guest semester program, aim to allow students to continue their education while their home institution recovers.
“Our only goal with this is to make sure there is no gap in their education, and that they are able to seamlessly continue to receive their credits and make progress toward a three or four year degree they are pursuing,” said Satyajit Dattagupta, vice president for enrollment management and dean of undergraduate admission at Tulane.
Tulane’s program allows accepted students to spend the spring 2018 semester at the university tuition free. Dattagupta said the university’s president spearheaded the campaign in part because of the help Tulane received from neighboring universities during Hurricane Katrina.
“If other schools hadn’t helped us, it would have been tremendously difficult to house our students, so we thought we would continue in that spirit, and we offered students from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands the opportunity to come to Tulane for a guest semester in the spring,” Dattagupta said.
It is not a requirement that students pay their spring tuition at their home institution in order to be considered for the program, Dattagupta said. He said students who were accepted could take classes that applied and fit in the right time frame for their degree.
“It’s very important for us to not take revenue away from those institutions,” Dattagupta said.
Similarly, NYU’s Hurricane Maria Assistance Program invited an estimated 50 to 60 qualified undergraduate students currently enrolled in accredited Puerto Rican colleges and universities to spend the spring 2018 semester at the school’s New York City campus free of charge.
Students who qualified for the program will receive tuition, room and board and health insurance, and have the ability to take courses in any of NYU’s undergraduate schools or colleges. Accepted students are expected to pay their regular spring tuition bill to their home college or university.
Josh Taylor, associate vice chancellor of global programs at NYU, said the university’s primary goal is to enable to students to be able to continue to make academic progress.
“Even if a student’s school is up and running, if they are living in a place without power or in a place where they’re losing power with some regularity, it’s a very difficult learning environment, and so our primary goal is that students have a secure environment where they can continue their education,” Taylor said.
In addition to assistance offerings for undergraduate students, Brown will allow graduate and medical students from UPR to apply to enroll at the school, according to a university statement. Faculty members at Brown can also nominate graduate students with whom they will collaborate in their research and education.
UPR faculty members whose work aligns with that of faculty at Brown are also eligible to collaborate with the university with approval from UPR and support from a relevant Brown academic department.
“Our entire community has been deeply moved by the devastation that Puerto Rico has suffered,” provost Richard Locke said in the statement. “Partnering with the University of Puerto Rico offers the opportunity for us to welcome exceptional students and scholars to College Hill to continue their research and education while their campuses work to reopen.”
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