Tulane Is Offering Puerto Rican Victims One Semester Of College For Free

by Chris Tognotti
Mario Tama/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Students in Puerto Rico who've lost their homes to Hurricane Maria are reportedly being offered an opportunity by a major university in New Orleans, one that's reportedly trying to return the favor shown to its city's residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Namely, Tulane University is offering Puerto Rico victims tuition-free college for one semester, although not without a few strings attached.

In a statement posted to Tulane's official admissions blog, the school's director of admissions, Jeff Schiffman, detailed exactly how and why the university is taking this step. Specifically, because after the cataclysmic devastation done to the city of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, universities around the world showed similar solidarity and consideration to the people affected.

A few weeks ago we published a blog letting students in Puerto Rico know that Tulane and New Orleans would stand with them as they began their journey toward recovery. 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. 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.

The offer will also be open to students who reside in the U.S. Virgin Islands and St. Martin, both of which were also badly ravaged by storms. It bears mentioning, because it so often seems to go overlooked in national conversation about the storm recovery and humanitarian effort, that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, and its people are American citizens like any other.

According to a recent poll, a startling number of Americans living on the mainland don't know that fact — only slightly more than half, 54 percent, are aware that Puerto Ricans are Americans.

Any students displaced by Hurricane Maria can apply for the program. It's not entirely free as advertised, however ― applicants will have to pay for the spring tuition for their "home institution," meaning the college they attend in Puerto Rico. Here's how Schiffman describes the program, intended to "partner" with Puerto Rican universities.

Tulane wants to partner with your institution during their recovery process. If you are admitted to Tulane's spring guest student program, we ask that you pay your spring bill at your current school. If your current institution is not able to accept payment or not reopening, please indicate that in the “more information” section of the application.

As such, the program is not actually entirely free to the student, but they won't have to pay anything extra to Tulane. They'll also have to fill out an application, which can be viewed here.

According to the statement, Tulane will also try to secure housing for any visiting students who need it, as there's a section on the application where students who need housing can request it.

Setting aside the opportunity this affords some college-age students in Puerto Rico, the circumstances on the island remain intensely dire. The vast majority of the island continues to be without electricity, and suffering from lack of food and drinkable water.

Regardless, however, President Donald Trump hinted that he might be considering withdrawing the federal relief effort earlier this week, tweeting that FEMA, among others, can't stay in Puerto Rico forever. Trump has also aimed blame on the island for its debt crisis and infrastructure problems, even as the humanitarian nightmare is still unfolding.