NT Tries to Help Displaced Katrina Students

By Pamela Bond

North Texas Daily

Nov. 8, 2005

Since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, displaced students at NT are starting to recover and focus on the normal college lifestyle. However, paying tuition costs may be more stressful for these students.

Almost 100 students and four faculty members transferred to NT after the hurricane from Tulane, Xavier, Dillard and Loyola, among others. Any tuition paid to these schools for the fall 2005 semester is nonrefundable, according to displaced students who spoke up at the “Let’s Talk” session on October 24.

Instead, schools which were closed due to the hurricane will credit the tuition paid to the next available semester, once the institution opens again.

However, paying tuition for two semesters at once seems to be the problem for most students in this situation. Students paid for the fall semester at their old schools before the start of the semester, and then they again paid for NT tuition.

“We definitely do not have this kind of money, and it’s surprising that many other schools are opening their doors to the displaced free of charge, but this school is not,” Brittney Phoenix, New Orleans freshman, said in a letter to President Norval Pohl. “I hope that you understand where I’m coming from and try to accommodate us as best as possible.”

Since NT is a public university, it does not have the authority to waive its tuition, as SMU did. Also, NT distributed its fall scholarship funds last spring, and was therefore unable to give scholarships to the new students, which is how the University of Houston managed to accommodate its displaced students without tuition, according to Pohl.

“The university acted as fast as possible,” Marcedes M. Fuller, San Antonio sophomore and director of relations, communications and marketing for SGA, said. “If they had tried to waive the fees, it would have taken a lot longer to bring the students here and enroll them and everything.”

Instead, NT has found other ways of assisting these students. First of all, all out of state fees were dismissed, which would have almost doubled tuition.

Also, the student development office has various ways of helping students.

“We’ll work with them to find on or off campus jobs and make sure all financial aid requests are in,” Bonita Jacobs, vice president of student development, said.

In addition, student development has a new money management center, located in the rec center. The center works with students to help them better their finances. They will suggest ways to increase funds, such as through work or funds, and reduce costs, such as by taking on a roommate or consolidating credit card debt.

“Each student will be worked with individual basis, since all their situations are going to be very different,” Jacobs said.

Also, while most financial aid is distributed on a yearly basis, some scholarships are given out each semester, for those students staying through next semester. In addition, some students might be eligible for grants from FEMA.

“A lot of these students will be staying through next semester, in the spring, and that means something different than those who will be here all year,” Jacobs said.

To help other displaced students, not at NT, the university created six online courses, which could be taken from any computer connected to the internet. The courses, US History to and from 1865, Art Appreciation, Principles of Nutrition, the Solar System and Principles of Language, were considered highly transferable and required no prerequisites.

NT also donated a free online course to the Sloan Consortium.

“There are numerous efforts on campus for the students, but SGA is sort of in the middle,” Fuller said. “We’d want to see these students supported and welcomed on campus, but we also have to adhere to the university and government policies.”

To help others affected by the hurricane, the NT community collected $32,000. In a letter sent to the NT community last month, Pohl responded to efforts by saying “I’m extremely proud of the students, faculty, staff and volunteers who worked around the clock to help those in need during this recovery period.”

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