In response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina that left tens of thousands of people homeless, the University of California, along with many other schools nationwide, has opened its doors to displaced students from the Gulf Coast region for the fall.
‘All UC campuses are working with students affected by the hurricane who are seeking accommodations at the university this fall,’ said UC President Robert Dynes in a statement released earlier this month. ‘We are making every effort both to address the needs of students who have been displaced by this overwhelming catastrophe and to be supportive of the needs and recovery efforts of the affected institutions of higher education in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region.’
According to Leslie Millerd Rogers, director of student affairs communications at UC Irvine, as of last week, 76 undergraduate students and 12 graduate students have spoken to UCI about attending the school for one term as visiting students because their schools were closed in the aftermath of the hurricane. These students attended Tulane University, Loyola University and the University of New Orleans.
Sixty-three of these students are California residents who are attending Gulf Coast universities. UCI has also been contacted by some international students who were planning on studying abroad at the Gulf Coast universities.
The administration wants to support these displaced students by helping them progress with their education.
‘UCI simply wants to give these students a place where they can continue their higher education while their home institution rebuilds,’ Rogers said.
UCI is working on a case-by-case basis with these students. These discussions are often based on good faith in the students, since many of their records may not be easily obtainable.
Rogers said that UCI is just helping like other businesses, ‘but we’re in the business of higher education.’
Unlike universities in Southern states, some of which are taking in over 2,000 displaced students, Rogers said that helping these students will not impact current students’ ability to access classes or services.
In order to better aid displaced undergraduate students, the campus has appointed Penny Harrel, associate director of financial aid, as a liaison for campus visitors. She will provide connections for these students to come to UCI on a temporary basis.
‘I figure out all the rest of their needs and get all those needs met for them on our campus by coordinating with housing, [the registrar’s office] and whatever I need to do to make that happen so they’re not running around on the campus,’ Harrel said.
Harrel will also assist with financial aid, a process which may be new for some of these students.
‘A lot of these kids may have had families who were able to pay for schooling, but now that they’ve lost their jobs, their homes, their everything, those families are no longer able to pay for that student’s education,’ Harrel said. ‘We have to go through and help them with financial aid through the federal government.’
William Parker, vice chancellor of research and dean of graduate studies, is assisting graduate students affected by Katrina.
Depending on the student, Parker said that graduate programs will provide research and laboratory space, waive application fees and other documentation that may not be available, such as transcripts and letters of recommendation and provide other accommodations if needed.
‘What we’re trying to do is determine the needs of the individual and try to direct them to the right office or make exceptions to policies, if necessary, so that UCI can meet their needs,’ Parker said.
Other UC campuses are assisting students as well.
UCLA, for example, is welcoming displaced students through the UCLA Extension Program and providing academic counselors to displaced students.
UC Riverside has waived its application fee and is working with campus services to help accommodate students from the Gulf Coast region.
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