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Elite Colleges Opening Doors for Displaced Katrina Students

Elite Colleges Opening Doors for Displaced Katrina Students 


Luke Harris’ undergraduate career at Tulane University lasted all of five hours. Hurricane Katrina forced him to abandon his belongings and evacuate New Orleans during his first day at the school two weeks ago. He now finds himself at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — a school that previously rejected him.

In the hurricane’s aftermath, the nation’s most prestigious and selective colleges and universities are opening their doors to many students who otherwise wouldn’t have qualified for admission.

Harris is one of more than a dozen students who have found a tuition-free refuge, albeit on a temporary basis, at MIT, the elite university on the banks of the Charles River.

“It’s something good to come out of something bad,” said Harris, 18, of Chicago. “Many people are much worse off than me. I seemed to actually come out ahead because of the hurricane.”

Many schools are treating the Gulf Coast evacuees like visiting students, meaning they will get credit for the classes they take, but are expected to return to their old schools once they reopen.

Boston University officials announced that fully enrolled Tulane undergraduates are now eligible to enroll tuition-free and attend classes at BU during the fall semester. Tulane graduate and professional students may also contact BU schools and will be considered on a case-by-case basis. BU’s Medical and Law Schools have already made arrangements for several Tulane students to attend BU programs this semester.

Most schools have set up a makeshift admissions process for the students, but Brown University has an open-door policy. As of Sept. 12, Brown had accepted 57 undergraduates from hurricane-stricken schools and offered spots to 24 others.

“We’re trying to find spaces for everybody who applies,” said school spokesman Mark Nickel. “That’s just the way we decided to do it.”

Other schools were more selective.

Harvard is making room for about 25 undergraduates this semester. Princeton is sifting though a stack of roughly 200 applications to fill slots it has for 30 displaced undergraduates and 20 graduate students.

In many cases, school officials are relying on applicants to self-report their grades and academic qualifications because many lost transcripts in the flooding. Essays and letters of reference are not required in most cases.

Yale had limited space for housing, so the school only accepted 20 of the 80 to 100 students who applied. Eleven of those 20 started classes on Sept. 12.

“We were predisposed to act favorably on their applications unless we felt it simply wouldn’t be a good fit,” said Margit Dahl, Yale’s acting dean of undergraduate admissions.

Enrolling at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge was Lesley White’s first choice for a backup plan after the hurricane forced her to evacuate the University of New Orleans a week into her senior year.

Then she decided to apply to MIT and the school accepted her application the following day. She arrived on campus shortly after that.

“MIT was my safety school,” the business major joked.

Associated Press 

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