More than a month has passed since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. In that time, the island has barely moved an inch toward recovery. As the federal government lags in relief efforts, 25 percent is still without potable water and 75 percent doesn’t have electricity. The lack of resources has affected every part of life on the island, with doctors reportedly performing surgery by cellphone light. As the situation remains dire, Puerto Ricans are making the difficult decision to either stay on the island or start over on the mainland. Before Maria struck the island, boricuas were already leaving in large numbers due to the financial crisis and lack of job opportunities.
As officials across the continental US brace themselves for an influx of Puerto Ricans in the aftermath of the storm, universities are trying to make the transition easier. Some of them are offering free tuition to students, meanwhile others are allowing Puerto Rican students to pay in-state tuition.
At a time when the island can use a helping hand, this is welcome news – and one that will likely encourage more Puerto Rican students to leave their homes behind, which may have long-lasting effects across the Caribbean commonwealth. But for those who make the painful decision to move to the mainland for more opportunities, here are a few universities welcoming Puerto Ricans:
Brown University will provide free tuition to 50 students from the University of Puerto Rico, according to The Associated Press. The school, which has already accepted 15 students, will also help students find housing. “Our entire community has been deeply moved by the devastation that Puerto Rico has suffered,” Provost Richard Locke said. “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.”
Weeks after the university said it stood by Puerto Rico, it announced it’d allow Puerto Rican students to attend the school.
“Today, we’re making good on our offer of help by offering a tuition-free guest semester program for students from universities and colleges in Puerto Rico,”the school wrote in a blog post. “Tulane will open our doors to students whose lives have been upended by Hurricane Maria for the spring 2018 semester provided that they pay their home institution’s spring tuition. After Katrina, universities and colleges around the world took in our students with open arms; it’s now our turn to pay it forward and assist students in need. This program is also open to students in other areas affected by recent storms in the USVI and St. Maarten/St. Martin.”
Florida International University
Florida International University is offering in-state tuition to Puerto Rican students. For someone like Mariela Serrano, 18, this meant she was able to send her family back on the island $4,000. She arrived in Miami a month before the hurricane struck, and because the hurricane took a toll on her mom’s business, she didn’t have anyone to rely on for financial help. But with the $4,000 refund she received, she’s able to alleviate some of her family’s burden, according to NPR.
Across Florida, a total five state and six community colleges are offering in-state tuition.
New Jersey City University
New Jersey City University is also allowing Puerto Rican students to pay in-state tuition for the spring. The school will also award a $2,000 housing scholarship for each semester.
“The NJCU community is supplementing its efforts to provide material resources to those in need by extending to students in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands the opportunity to move forward with their higher education and prepare for careers that will help to rebuild their lives and their homelands after the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma,’’ NJCU President Sue Henderson said, according to NorthJersey.com.
State University of New York
64 State University of New York (SUNY) campuses will give Puerto Rican students the chance to continue schooling while paying in-state tuition. The move came after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked SUNY and City University of New York schools to reduce the rate for Puerto Rican students. “This action will alleviate a huge burden for these families as they try to repair and rebuild their lives,” Gov. Cuomo said in a statement. “New York will continue to ensure the bright light of opportunity shines on everyone.”
University of Arkansas
The University of Arkansas will offer in-state tuition to undergrad and graduate students from Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. “In a time of a natural disaster like this the University of Arkansas has a responsibility to reach out to those in higher education who are trying to put their lives back together and move forward,” said Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz. “The U of A offered similar assistance following Hurricane Katrina and it was very helpful to both students and their institutions.”