UCO Announces In-State Tuition Program for U.S. Territories Impacted by Hurricanes
In this Sept. 28, 2017, file photo, damaged and destroyed homes are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico. If you think this has been a wild and costly year for weather disasters, federal meteorologists say you are right, it’s been record setting. So far this year the United States has had 15 weather disasters that caused at least $1 billion in damages. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
The University of Central Oklahoma has announced a program that will provide in-state tuition for eligible students who have been relocated to Oklahoma from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands due to the widespread damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The first program of its kind to be offered by UCO, it will allow transfer students from the two U.S. territories impacted by last month’s hurricanes to pursue their education at UCO at the in-state cost of $6,096 rather than the out-of-state tuition cost of $14,972. While still being finalized, the preparations for completing the initiative can be measured in weeks, according to Adrienne Nobles, assistant vice president for University Communications.
“This program is in response to an extraordinary situation,” Nobles said. “This is the first time in modern history that an entire American state/territory has been so thoroughly devastated by a natural disaster, essentially shutting down the majority of operations on these islands for an extended period of time.”
While students within the program will not be considered in-state students, they will be provided with tuition waivers to reduce the cost. The university is looking to partner with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities to establish inter-institution agreements to aid in the transfer process, according to Nobles.
The initiative was announced last week by UCO President Don Betz in a statement supporting and encouraging relief efforts for the two U.S. territories.
“Beyond our prayers and good wishes, we must act as fellow citizens and neighbors with generosity and useful assistance and support through the several stages that return to a life approaching normal must pass,” Betz said.
More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck the region, over half of Puerto Rico continues to have no access to running water or telecommunication systems. Much of the island also continues to be without electricity, a situation not expected to be repaired for more than six months.
Along with federal relief responses, many communities across the U.S. have also joined in to support areas impacted by the season’s tropical weather. UCO’s own Leadership Central began a hurricane relief campaign last month to gather supplies for victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
“We are connected to our campus, local, national and global communities. Our fellow Americans are in great need of assistance, and we have a way we can help. It’s simply one of many ways we endeavor to exemplify the university’s core values of character, community and civility,” Nobles said.
The second largest Hispanic demographic in Oklahoma, Puerto Ricans make up 0.3% of the university’s student population. With members of the student body and community impacted by the disaster, the university’s Latino Faculty and Staff Association have expressed emphatic support of the program and other measures supporting recovery efforts in the region.
“UCO is taking a leadership role in Oklahoma in supporting students affected by the hurricane by welcoming them into our UCO community and calling for our students, faculty, and staff to join the national and global recovery efforts on the island,” said Liliana Renteria Mendoza.