Tulane offers free tuition for displaced students in Puerto Rico


Tulane provost Robin Forman speaks about his university’s decision to allow guest status to students from Puerto Rico. Photo credit: Nick Reimann

Nick Reimann

With Puerto Rico still reeling after Hurricane Maria, Tulane is now offering a helping hand for the thousands of students studying there that were displaced.

The university sent out a blog post on Oct. 13 through its director of admissions, Jeff Schiffman, 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,” the blog post read. Students have until Nov. 1 to submit applications, which are available online. There is also an option for students to mail in their applications.

They will be given “guest student” status, meaning that they have to return to their home university following the semester.

It’s a similar situation to the one Tulane itself faced 12 years ago when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, forcing the university to cancel its entire fall 2005 semester.

And that’s something that was on the minds of Tulane administrators when they made this decision.

“Tulane simply wouldn’t be the university it is today if it hadn’t been for the generosity of several dozen universities that offered our students the opportunity to continue their education there,” Robin Forman, university provost, said.

Forman also hopes the move will be a chance to develop a relationship between the school and the island.

He said there isn’t much of a Puerto Rican presence at Tulane right now, but that’s not something that is the case next door at Loyola.

According to the most recent University Fact Book, there are 44 students from Puerto Rico enrolled at Loyola.

The university did not respond to request for comment on whether it is also considering waiving tuition for next semester.

Someone who hopes that it does, though, is Francesca Lausen, vice president of the Hispanic music appreciation club. The hurricane had a first-hand impact for Lausen, who has family on the island.

“It’s scary, you know, when you’re on the opposite side and your family’s having to evacuate and, you know, have food portions and not know when they’re going to have power or shelter,” she said.

Lausen added that she is proud of Tulane’s efforts, and is happy to see the school stepping up to help in the same way others helped them 12 years ago.

She does have concerns about the plan, though – specifically when it comes to the Nov. 1 deadline.

“How are they getting students over there to know that an opportunity like this is just waiting for them to grab it and take it?” Lausen said.

Over a month after the storm, 79 percent of the island remains without electricity.