How colleges and students are helping out Puerto Rico

In Hurricane Maria's devastating wake, colleges and students across mainland U.S. are rolling up their sleeves to help the communities displaced by the disaster.

As students in Puerto Rico face new barriers to higher education, campuses are helping the island recover with lowered tuition costs, financial assistance, and on-the-ground relief.

Colleges lower tuition

Colleges and universities across the U.S. are easing tuition costs for students displaced by Hurricane Maria to help get them back on track, Joseph Spector reports for the Journal News.

For example, the State University of New York (SUNY) system is offering students who have been displaced by Hurricanes Maria or Irma in-state tuition if they transfer to a SUNY college, Spector writes.  

As a public institution, SUNY has a responsibility to help students when external circumstances affect their ability to succeed in college, says H. Carl McCall, SUNY board chairman.

Like other institutions in Florida, Rollins College is offering discounted tuition for affected students, Annie Martin writes for Orlando Sentinel. Similarly, Tulane University is offering a tuition-free semester to displaced students who can pay their regular fees to their home institution in Puerto Rico, Scott Jaschik reports for Inside Higher Ed.

Students lead aid efforts

Students are also banding together to help the communities devastated by Hurricane Maria.

The destruction in Puerto Rico spurred Carnegie Mellon University student Rosana Guernica, a native of the island, to launch a crowdfunding campaign. So far, she has raised $82,000 for supplies, Yelena Dzhanova reports for NBC News. On her first trip to Puerto Rico, Guernica delivered up to 1,000 pounds of relief supplies and returned to the mainland with six evacuees, Dzhanova writes.

Additionally, the group Students with Puerto Rico is mobilizing campuses across mainland United States to raise awareness and funds for Puerto Rico, Katie Sanders reports for Forbes.

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The student-run group began at the University of Pennsylvania and quickly spread to become 115 schools strong, Sanders writes. In the first month alone, the group's GoFundMe campaign raised more than $200,000.

Volunteers pave the way for on-the-ground relief

At Penn, students and faculty are offering a different type of relief to Hurricane Maria's victims. The campus recently held a five-hour "mapathon," where volunteers used satellite images to locate landmarks, Kaitlin Boyle writes for the Daily Pennsylvanian.

Many victims may be trapped in rural areas that aid workers may not know exist, she notes. Penn volunteers have focused on the areas that the Red Cross has prioritized to help those on the ground navigate Puerto Rico's interior.

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Some of the volunteers have family members trapped in the very streets they mapped, Boyle writes.

For student Amaliris Gonzalez, whose family resides in a high-priority area, volunteering to map is her way of helping her relatives, she says (Boyle, Daily Pennsylvanian, 10/17; Dzhanova, NBC News, 10/17; Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 10/17; Martin, Orlando Sentinel, 10/17; Sanders, Forbes, 10/17; Spector, Journal News, 10/17).


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