- Several institutions within the State and City University of New York systems are accepting students from Puerto Rico and nations throughout the Caribbean still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Maria last September, with CUNY identifying 121 students from those areas who qualify for in-state tuition, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education. New York University has also announced a Hurricane Maria assistance program to cover full-time tuition, housing, meals and health insurance for affected students.
- CUNY administrators have committed to helping students adjust by identifying staff members who can help them navigate the application, financial aid and course selection processes, in addition to considering official exchange programs with the multi-campus University of Puerto Rico system, Vita C. Rabinowitz, provost and executive vice chancellor at CUNY, told the Chronicle.
- Institutions, including Tulane University in New Orleans, that were hard hit by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 have also opened their doors to impacted students through a guest semester program, which is helping students cover costs. The State University System of Florida, as well, has plans to invite more than 3,000 students to enroll, with tuition being paid directly to the University of Puerto Rico system to help with recovery.
Understanding the value of higher education, particularly amid growing conservative skepticism of the college degree, institution leaders that step up to provide assistance for students whose academic career paths are derailed are sending a two-fold message about the importance of higher education and their commitment to serving students.
For instance, Antonio Pérez, president of Borough of Manhattan Community College, was head of the institution when one of its buildings fell in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorism attack on New York City in 2001. He says as a higher ed leader it's critical he shows current and prospective students how he acts as both a business executive and as students' primary support. This is particularly true in times of need, as the effect of not serving students is societal:
"Our success is success for our students. They are our customers; if we had closed the doors, then the consequences are societal," Pérez to Education Dive. "We have individuals that made sacrifices to get an education, and we need to be able to provide that for them [...]. I believe that has a greater impact than profit or loss, because you're impacting peoples' lives, whose futures depended upon our building reopening."
Following the string of devastating natural disasters last year, several institutions stepped up and more are following suit. For instance, the University of Michigan opened housing early for the fall semester for students from Texas who were affected by Hurricane Harvey. The University of Alabama, as well, identified and reached out to 603 students who were affected by Harvey and provided support for them, according to a written statement from the university.
Like Pérez, University of Alabama President Stuart Bell explained in a press release that caring for students generally is part of the institution's mission and business model:
“As a university, we are concerned for our students, alumni, and their families. We have many groups and individuals ready to assist and resources available,” said Bell. “The University of Alabama is a place characterized by compassion to those hurting and in need..."