As Puerto Rico continues to recover from Hurricane Maria, Cornell is offering a free semester of study – including tuition, room and board – in spring 2018 for up to 58 students from Universidad de Puerto Rico (UPR).
UPR is the main public university system in Puerto Rico, with 11 campuses and 5,300 faculty members serving 58,000 students. The university is open but not operating at full strength.
Four weeks after Hurricane Maria, blasting winds of up to 155 miles an hour, knocked out power to the entire island, 80 percent of Puerto Rico still does not have electricity, The New York Times reported Oct. 20.
“These young people, and nearly everyone in Puerto Rico, have gone through a terrible trauma. This is our way of reaching out to them and our university colleagues in Puerto Rico to show we stand with them and their families during this difficult time in their academic, professional and personal lives,” said Cornell President Martha E. Pollack.
Qualified students will take Cornell courses, earn credits, live alongside Cornell students and receive an official Cornell transcript. They also will have access to resources, including libraries, computing facilities, laboratories, support services and activities.
Up to 50 undergraduate and professional master's degree students will be enrolled through the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions; up to eight graduate research students will be enrolled through the Graduate School. The deadline for applications is Dec. 1.
“Officials at the university told us that this offer for the spring semester may be useful to certain students, and we are delighted to provide the option for continuation of study,” said Provost Michael Kotlikoff. “We have no idea how many students will respond, but the offer is there. It’s one way, in these troubled times, of demonstrating goodwill toward our colleagues in Puerto Rico.”
Kent Kleinman, the Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, brought the idea to the university’s leadership when he heard the Department of Architecture was willing to enroll students from the devastated island. Pollack reached out to UPR’s president, who said this might be an opportunity for a number of UPR students to be in a setting where they can have full access to curriculum, resources and infrastructure.
Every dean has designated an associate dean or a faculty member to work directly with UPR students, before they arrive if necessary, to ensure they make a smooth transition, said Glenn Altschuler, M.A. ’73, Ph.D. ’76, dean of the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions.
“This is a campuswide effort,” Altschuler said. “Students are going to be giving up some room in their residences; faculty are going to be teaching some extra students; deans are doing the work to make it happen; and our president and provost are leading the way in how we should be responding.”
UPR students will be responsible for the cost of transportation to and from campus, books and other course supplies, living expenses such as laundry and off-campus meals, and health insurance.
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Cornell made a similar offer, enrolling 204 students from Tulane University, Xavier University of Louisiana and the University of New Orleans.
“We aim to offer them a warm welcome to one of the great universities in the world and do our dead-level best to accommodate them,” Altschuler said. “I want the students from Puerto Rico to know that there will be an awful lot of people reaching out to them to be helpful.”
This story originally appeared in the Cornell Cronicle.