As Iowans watch the scenes of storm devastation down south and wonder what they can do to help, schools are considering the same challenge. At Iowa State University, spokeswoman Annette Hacker says everybody in higher education’s considering what they could do for students displaced by Hurricane Katrina. “It’s the ‘how’ that we grapple with,” Hacker says. Some schools have already come out with offers like in-state tuition, free tuition or a 100-dollar semester. At Iowa State she says they’ve heard from 3 students, from Tulane and Xavier University of Louisiana who were displaced. The admissions office is working with them and will help students and their family on a case-by-case basis. She says the admissions office will also check their academic standing and things necessary to admit them. She says they’ll ensure the students are qualified. “A lot of people at the University are coming forward asking how we can help,” she says. While it’s an understandable reaction to the image of the storm damage, she says there are some problems with inviting storm-displaced students to come study in Iowa. Today’s the 10th day of classes, she points out, and by the time students could get here school will be three or four weeks into the fall semester. Hacker’s heard there are 75-thousand students displaced by the storm, but while everyone wants to help, it’s tough to catch up when you begin 3 or four weeks behind. At the University of Iowa, spokesman Steve Parrott says they’ve checked in to offer whatever can be done. They’re working through the Association of American Universities, a group that includes the biggest research schools including U-of-I and ISU. Tulane is one member school, though Parrott says they want to let people throughout the south that “if students want to come here, we will take them in.” Five or six students have contacted Iowa and the school’s making arrangements for them. “We thought we could take up to fifty or 75, but the question is, who will really want to come.” He points out right now their main problem isn’t finding a class, it’s making sure everyone’s safe. Still, if Gulf Coast college kids registered at schools closed by the disaster start asking to come to Iowa, Parrott says they probably won’t be turned away. As for starting fall term weeks late, he says it’s a judgment call whether that’s worse than sitting out a semester. In another week or two when they’re safe and have time on their hands, if they don’t have jobs or other obligations, they may want a way to get back to their studies. late or not, Parrott says their professors and fellow students are likely to offer generous help. Annette Hacker at ISU says Iowans understandably feel for the storm victims. “We all remember the floods of 1993 in Ames and Des Moines,” Hacker says. But compared to that, this disaster’s so immense she says “I don’t think any of us can really get our arms around it.” Hacker says Iowa’s not a big destination for displaced students, being a long ways from Louisiana, but if there turned out to be a big wave of applications, the three universities would work with the governor’s office to agree on a policy for admitting them. A spokeswoman for the University of Northern Iowa says none have inquired, though a minority program does have a couple dozen students from the New Orleans area attending UNI and the school’s doing what it can to help them find out about friends and relatives in Louisiana.
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