Evacuees could stay away, say officials

September 16, 2005

Universities in the New Orleans area have a new concern now that most of their students have found places at schools outside the area devastated by Hurricane Katrina - getting them back.

Some 30 schools, with 100,000 students between them, were affected by the disaster, and many will be closed until at least next year. But without tuition fee revenue, and with most having committed to continue paying faculty and staff, they face uncertain futures.

In response to appeals from Tulane and other universities, national higher education associations have set a one-semester limit on affected students' enrolment at other schools. Under the scheme, home universities such as Tulane can keep the money students have already paid for the autumn to increase their chances of reopening in January as scheduled.

Scott Cowen, Tulane's president, said: "Without fall 2005 tuition revenue, we would find it difficult, if not impossible, to reopen Tulane on schedule."

Mr Cowen said that some colleges and universities - which in a few cases are enrolling hundreds of displaced students - might have charged tuition fees.

"Some of our students have been asked to pay tuition fees at their host institution.

"Let me be clear: no Tulane student will ultimately have to pay more than they would have if they were at Tulane for the fall semester."

University officials conceded that freshers, who had just arrived for the semester, were those most likely not to return.

Most full-time faculty and graduate students continue to be paid at Tulane and elsewhere, a task complicated at Tulane because payroll records are not accessible and staff have been evacuated from the city.

Tulane, which has 6,000 employees, has moved its administrative offices to a hotel in Houston, 350 miles away, and its admissions office to Richmond, Virginia. The football team has enrolled at Louisiana Tech University, north of New Orleans, and will play some home games in nearby Shreveport, Louisiana.

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