Latest Puerto Rico, California Natural Disasters Wreak Havoc for Students
Find out how colleges and universities are responding.
By Kathryn Knight Randolph
October 27, 2017
This year has brought much devastation and disruption in the form of natural disasters all over the United States. In response, schools have closed, colleges have extended deadlines and even the FAFSA has issued instructions for families that may have trouble filing due to loss during the storms and fires.
In the cases of Hurricane Maria and the California wildfires, colleges and universities are going above and beyond to provide relief, resources and leniency for affected students and their families.
Several mainland colleges have stepped up to provide Puerto Rican students in-state tuition, according to NPR. These colleges are mostly in Florida, which boast a large Puerto Rican student population. As of now, these schools are:
- University of Florida
- University of South Florida
- Florida State University
- University of Central Florida
- Florida International University
- Miami Dade College
- Broward College
- St. Petersburg College
- Valencia College
- Seminole State College
Other schools across the nation offering in-state tuition include all State University of New York (SUNY) campuses, 17 Connecticut State colleges and universities and the University of Arkansas. NPR also reports that the University of Tulane is providing one semester free for Puerto Rican students as a way of “paying it forward” when other schools helped their students during Hurricane Katrina. Finally, University of Florida is offering 1,000 students free online access to their classes for a year. After, students can transfer to UF and continue paying online tuition prices.
In California, NPR states that 600 schools were closed, which affected 260,000 students. Not only were schools closed due to fire, but many had to undergo remediation for air and structural quality before they could reopen. Even worse, many students, faculty and staff of schools lost homes, which could affect a variety of factors for years.
While many students suffered, colleges around the area stepped up in pretty big ways. For instance, Pacific Union College served as a base for relief workers. Firefighters were housed at the college and the airstrip was used for water-dropping helicopters.
Students – as well as the institution itself – at UC Davis teamed up to offer support too. The school took in a firefighter’s family after they lost their home in the wildfires, according to UC Davis. One student organized a ride-share for those needing transportation back to Sonoma County. Furthermore, the hospital treated patients affected by the fires as well as sent veterinary teams to the area to treat animals.
Recovery in both of these instances will likely take years, but students can be rest assured that there is a community of understanding as well as support at institutions and processes of higher learning. Should you be a victim of Hurricane Maria or the California wildfires, and the destruction has caused or is causing issues with your applications, financial aid or academics, communicate with your school. Administrators and professors alike are more than willing to work with students that are suffering – and to help them get back up on their feet.
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