Connecticut colleges are rallying to help students displaced by last month’s hurricanes by preparing to offer in-state tuition and scholarships to those who moved individuals who want to continue their education to the area from Puerto Rico and the U.S Virgin Islands.
“We’re being proactive,” said Maribel La Luz, a spokeswoman for the public Connecticut State Colleges and Universities. “We want to be ready if and when the requests come in.”
CSCU announced Thursday that its finance committee will consider a proposal to extend the option of in-state tuition to students who relocate to Connecticut from the U.S. territories because of the hurricanes, which knocked out Puerto Rico’s power grid and severely disrupted life on the islands.
Displaced full-time and part-time students from the University of Puerto Rico and the University of the Virgin Islands will be eligible for in-state tuition under the proposal, scheduled to go before the committee on Oct.11 and before the full Board of Regents for a vote on Oct. 19 if passed by the committee. They would be able to attend any of the four CSCU universities or 12 community colleges until their schools are operable.
Tuition and fees per semester at the University of the Virgin Islands add up to to $2,727.50, according to CSCU, compared to Connecticut community colleges’ tuition and fees of $2,138 and the average tuition and fees at Connecticut’s public universities of more than $5,000. however, Tuition and fees per semester are $997.50 at the University of Puerto Rico.
The proposal notes that the cost of attending the two Caribbean universities is comparable to attending local community colleges in Connecticut. It also points out that many of the students are eligible for federal student aid.
“Hurricane Maria has affected the lives of so many of our students and staff at CSCU. Everyone is working extremely hard to help their family and friends in the Caribbean through this crisis,” CSCU President Mark Ojakian said in a statement. “As a public higher education institution, we don’t want to witness students having their education indefinitely interrupted through no fault of their own.”
Central Connecticut President Zulma Toro, a Puerto Rico native, graduated from the University of Puerto Rico before coming to the mainland U.S. She traveled to Miami this week to pick up her mother, postponing her official inauguration ahead of Central’s homecoming this weekend. “The situation in Puerto Rico is so dire and the need for help — my help and the help of others — is so great that I cannot turn my back on my family and friends and others I may be able to help,” Toro said last week in postponing the celebrations.
CCSU announced Wednesday that the university is gathering donations for scholarships. The joint effort between CCSU and the Ana Grace Project, launched in memory of Ana Grace Marquez-Greene who was killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting, will consist of donations and larger gifts intended for “eligible individuals from the disaster areas who wish to pursue educational opportunities at CCSU,” the announcement read.
The campaign will begin fundraising at Central’s homecoming events.
The effort will also establish a Welcome Center at CCSU’s New Britain campus and continue supporting the 11 elementary schools as part of the Ana Grace Project.
Students are also drumming up support for the areas affected by the hurricane. Cristina Valentin Rivera, a third-year medical student at UConn Health, moved to the mainland U.S. from Puerto Rico to attend medical school. As the president of UConn’s Latino Medical Student Association, she has been spearheading several fundraising events on the Farmington campus.
“For the past three weeks, especially the first two, it has been hard for many of us Puerto Rican students to be able to think of anything but Puerto Rico. It’s hard to study or concentrate, because our minds keep coming back to our families and whether they’re still OK,” she said. “There has been a surge of people trying to help — not just the Latinos, non-Latinos too.”
The association has already raised more than $500 by selling T-shirts and another group has planned a Zumba and lunch event on Sunday to drive more donations.