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Universities Open to Tech Students Displaced by Katrina

Engineering students are among the 100,000 at 30 colleges and universities on the Gulf Coast displaced by the disaster.

K.C. Jones

September 6, 2005

4 Min Read

Engineering universities joined hundreds of others across the country and overseas in offering help to more than 100,000 university students displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

According to the Association of American Universities, more than 30 colleges and universities along the Gulf Coast were severely damaged the hurricane. Tulane University was among those hit hardest. President Scott Cowen announced at the beginning of the holiday weekend that its 13,000 students would not be able to return this fall.

"While this news is extremely disappointing to all of us, our students can continue their academic careers uninterrupted thanks to an avalanche of support from our colleagues in higher education," Cowen announced said Friday evening in a posting on Tulane's emergency Web site.

The association encouraged universities to admit displaced students on a visiting basis, waive tuition for those who have already paid it somewhere else and to limit charges to room, board and essential fees.

Many schools here and abroad opened their doors. Some appealed specifically to students with majors in engineering, computing and sciences.

Georgia Tech has led the way in terms of offering assistance on several fronts.

When all of the shelters from New Orleans to Atlanta were filled to capacity, Georgia Tech allowed the American Red Cross to take several hundred evacuees to its Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The university is leading a fund drive, encouraging students, faculty and staff to volunteer at the coliseum, and offering admissions to some Tulane students. The applications are being considered on a case-by-case basis. Last week, Georgia Tech volunteers helped 275 Tulane students make it home or to temporary housing. Information about emergency admissions and links for Katrina-related information can be found on Georgia Tech's emergency Web page.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, just outside of Albany, N.Y., is waiving the entire semester's tuition, fees, room and board for students enrolling in its new Gulf Coast Visiting Scholars program.

RPI is accepting up to 100 students who were enrolled at Tulane University and Xavier Louisiana or those who are from New York's Capital Region whose campuses were affected. RPI is reaching out to students in science, engineering, marketing, media arts and architecture. The school has established a Web site for those who are interested.

President Shirley Ann Jackson said that students who are in good standing and pursuing degrees offered at RPI should be know they have somewhere to go and somewhere to learn.

"We welcome them into our community, until they can return to their own," she said in a written statement the day Tulane's closure was announced.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology similarly opened its doors by accepting special applications from students whose studies have been interrupted by the disaster.

MIT reported that it has about 90 students from Gulf Coast areas affected by the hurricane. The university is offering support and assistance to those students through their housemasters, deans and academic departments.

Stanford University is trying to contact all of its students needing housing, financial aid or counseling because of the hurricane and its effects.

The university is also allowing qualified students to begin studies in the fall quarter, which begins at the end of the month and ends in December. On-campus housing will be provided, and preference will be given to those from the San Francisco Bay Area. Stanford is charging room and board but will have students pay tuition to their home universities.

Stanford employees can request a week's leave to help in the recovery effort. For approved leaves, the university will match the employees' contributions, giving each one week of paid leave.

More than two dozen universities in the United Kingdom have offered to accept American students from the hurricane zone. They have posted the openings on a British Council Web site. Sheffield Hallam University is appealing specifically to students in computing, engineering and science programs.

It's not clear yet if those credits will be accepted at Tulane. The university, still scrambling to locate some faculty members, announced that it would accept credits for passing grades from regionally accredited universities.

Cowen encouraged students enrolled in schools and colleges with professional programs to enroll in universities with similar accredited programs and to take classes similar to those they planned to take in New Orleans.

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