New Orleans Colleges Cancel Fall Classes

At least 13 private and public colleges in New Orleans announce that they will not be offering classes in the fall semester. Now, tens of thousands of college students are scrambling to make new plans. Colleges across the country are making room for these displaced students.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Hurricane Katrina has displaced tens of thousands of college students, and schools across the country are trying to admit as many people as possible. NPR's Larry Abramson reports.

LARRY ABRAMSON reporting:

Damage to Tulane University, home to more than 12,000 students, apparently was not that severe. The school could open up soon, were it not for the fact that it depends on the infrastructure of New Orleans. Tulane President Scott Cowen made this announcement on the university's Web page.

(Soundbite of announcement)

Mr. SCOTT COWEN (President, Tulane University): And as we all know, that infrastructure has suffered major damage. That is why I was forced to make the difficult decision to not hold classes at Tulane University for the fall semester.

ABRAMSON: The same is true for 13 public and private colleges in Louisiana. Now there's a rush to place those students at other schools around the country before the fall semester gets too far along. The Department of Education has launched a Web page to help find places for students, but the schools themselves got started days ago and have already placed many evacuees. They've launched Web sites like KatrinaCollegeStudents.org, an effort by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to bring schools and students together.

Bob Wright of the University of Texas at Arlington, near Dallas, says his school only anticipated a dozen or so students, but over 200 have already signed up.

Mr. BOB WRIGHT (University of Texas at Arlington): The phones began ringing Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and we were getting as many as 10 calls an hour from students wanting to come and register.

ABRAMSON: With a population of 27,000, UT Arlington figures it can absorb all the students who apply. The school hasn't put a ceiling on new admissions as long as they sign up by September 12th. After that, administrators feel the semester, already in its third week, will be too far along. But for now, Bob Wright says the focus is on lowering barriers to admission so students can get to work.

Mr. WRIGHT: Right now they're not having to pay tuition, and right now they don't have to show a transcript, so we're just doing it on student IDs.

ABRAMSON: A lot of the students going to the Arlington campus are north Texas residents attending school in New Orleans, so they can stay with relatives. Other schools with limited housing options are following that model.

Georgetown University is one of 27 Jesuit colleges and universities offering space to students from Loyola University in New Orleans, which is closed for the semester. Georgetown's Julia Green Bataille says students can remain registered at Loyola while attending classes at the Washington, DC, campus.

Ms. JULIA GREEN BATAILLE (Georgetown University): What we are doing is offering those students from the metropolitan Washington area who attend Loyola University the opportunity to take classes at Georgetown this semester through an emergency cross-registration program.

ABRAMSON: Julia Green Bataille says admitting students to professional programs like law and med school can be more complicated than accepting undergrads. Georgetown is working with accrediting boards to ensure that all students meet their standards.

For students who can't transfer schools for a semester, there's an effort to offer classes long-distance. Bruce Chaloux, with the Southern Regional Education Board, says his organization is asking schools nationwide to help put hundreds of courses on the Internet.

Mr. BRUCE CHALOUX (Southern Regional Education Board): And we're trying to do that through making online courses available starting in mid-October and concluding sometime around the holidays.

ABRAMSON: Students may not have to worry about tuition or paying back student loans for the time being, but state and local officials still have to figure out how to transfer financial aid and scholarships to the new schools.

Larry Abramson, NPR News.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Claudio Sanchez has more on the obstacles to education that displaced children face at npr.org.

This is NPR News.

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