Twelve college students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands impacted by hurricanes Irma and Maria will have the opportunity to study at UR this spring, the University announced Tuesday.

“These students have been displaced from their homes, displaced from their lives as college students,” said Dean of the College Jeffrey Runner said. “We’re going to need to recognize that they’re going through a very tough experience. It’s not like study-abroad.”

The program will cover costs of tuition, room and board, and transportation to UR for all students accepted into it.

The students will also be able to receive the same support services all UR students have access to, like academic advisers, the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and health services.

UR also plans to let visiting students take advantage of its partnership with the Cambridge Education Group, which provides language support for students.

“Some estimates are that only 10 percent of people in Puerto Rico are proficient in English at the level we typically expect for study here at the University,” Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jonathan Burdick said. It was decided we would focus on students who thought themselves ready to study in English. But if they get here, and they’re not really as ready, we want to make sure we have the support services in place.”

Both Burdick and Runner mentioned, however, that not all costs associated with attending would be covered. Among them, the cost of books and supplies, as well as the cost of winter clothes, would not be covered by the University.

“We broadcast to the Puerto Rican community here in Rochester, so the thought is that maybe some of these students [are] people who have family and relatives up here,” Burdick said. “The Puerto Rican community here in Rochester is very close-knit, and very self-aware and self-supportive. I bet they might want to create host families and all kinds of other stuff.”

This is not the first time UR has put this type of program in place; in 2005, the University had a similar program for college students affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Unlike the post-Katrina program, UR is currently only allowing visiting students to study at UR for spring semester. The 2005 program allowed students to continue their studies at UR until their colleges reopened.

Visiting students will also be unable to directly transfer to UR for the fall 2018 semester, Burdick said, so their respective institutions could have the opportunity to keep their students.

“If the experience we had with Katrina is any gauge, if we have 12 students here, there seems to be a good chance at least one of them will say, ‘I like it here. I might just want to stay here,’” Burdick said. “What we would do in that case is say, ‘No.’ We would send them back. The reason to do that is, you don’t want what you do in a beneficial way to completely eviscerate the student population in the communities in Puerto Rico.”

Added Runner, in a separate interview: “These students aren’t transferring here to the University. It’s for them to get their academic training while their local school is getting back into shape to support them afterwards.”

The University is encouraging students to apply by Dec. 1, and any students would arrive on campus around Jan. 14, 2018, just in time for the transfer student orientation. Visiting students will be able to take classes that correspond to those they would have taken at their original colleges.

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