University Students Displaced By Hurricane Maria Could Soon Be Going To School In Connecticut

Oct 5, 2017

Some state universities and community colleges could soon welcome students displaced by Hurricane Maria. Now the system’s president has proposed offering  those students in-state tuition rates.

Lea esta historia en español. / Read this story in Spanish.

The news at universities in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands is bad. Communications are down. Power is out. And, in some cases, generators are the only thing keeping lab animals alive and finicky equipment working.

Which all points to this: students can’t go to school.

Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, said the state wants to change that.

“This is very local for us,” Ojakian said. “Because many of our students have relatives in Puerto Rico. Many of our faculty and staff have relatives and friends in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

Ojakian has submitted a proposal that would offer in-state tuition rates to displaced students from the University of Puerto Rico and the University of the Virgin Islands.

They could come here, go to school, and also get support.

“A lot of these students may need counseling. They’ve just been through a very horrific event,” Ojakian said. “If they’re going to pick up and leave their families and come here -- they’re going to need help adjusting.”

The proposal still needs to be approved by the Board of Regents. Ojakian said he wants to get the idea moving now, so state universities and community colleges are ready to begin taking displaced students in the coming weeks.

This story is part of “The Island Next Door,” WNPR’s reporting project about Puerto Rico and Connecticut after Hurricane Maria.