Emory will accept 32 qualified undergraduate visiting students from Puerto Rico who are unable to continue their studies for the Spring 2018 semester at universities on the island that were devastated by Hurricane Maria. Tuition, board and application fees will be waived for the students.

Emory joins several other universities, such as New York University, Cornell University (N.Y.) and Tulane University (La.), in helping students displaced by the category 4 hurricane, which made landfall on Puerto Rico Sept. 20 and is the 10th most intense Atlantic hurricane on record, according to The Weather Channel. The storm completely disabled the island’s power grid and more than half of the island is still without power or running water, according to The New York Times.

Visiting Puerto Rican students will only be admitted for the Spring 2018 semester, though Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Enrollment and Dean of Admission John Latting said in an interview that the University has yet to discuss the possibility of extending the visiting students’ stay past the Spring semester.

“That’s one of those ‘cross the bridge when we come to it’ points,” Latting said. “We just haven’t had that conversation yet. We would certainly be sympathetic if their home institution is not ready for their return. Hopefully that won’t be the case, but … it’s possible.”

President of the Puerto Rican Student Association (PRSA) Josue Rodriguez (20C) said that the group appreciates Emory’s efforts to help those in need.

“We also hope the administration can contact the right people in [Puerto Rico] to inform students about this possibility,” Rodriguez said.

Latting credits Provost and Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Dwight McBride as one of the people who pushed for this initiative.

“[He] felt very clearly that … it’s a responsibility that we have. He expected the Emory offices [Residence Life and Housing Operations, Campus Life and the Emory Registrar] … to get together and work on a plan. So we did that,” Latting said.

After Emory released the initial call for applications Nov. 17, Latting said the University received a number of inquiries about accepting students affected by the hurricane, but he was unable to provide an exact number of inquiries received, and it is still unclear whether Emory will reach the capacity of 32 students or not.

Emory is not providing students from the U.S. Virgin Islands who were also affected by the storm with the same opportunity. Many of the universities in the Virgin Islands are projected to open Spring 2018, whereas the University of Puerto Rico has stated that it will be unable to open in the Spring, according to the Nov. 21 email from Latting. The Virgin Islands is undergoing recovery after back-to-back Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the territory.

Associate Dean of Admission Giselle Martin will oversee the admissions process for the Puerto Rican students and, according to Latting, “mak[e] sure that the visiting students are really ready to jump right into a set of Emory classes.”

Latting told the Wheel that visiting students do not have to submit a complete application. Rather, the Office of Undergraduate Admission will mainly be looking at students’ transcripts. Prospective students must have been enrolled in an accredited Puerto Rican university to be considered for admission. Students who are applying as freshmen must still submit SAT or ACT test scores.

The cap of 32 students was determined by Residence Life and Housing Operations, Campus Life and the Emory Registrar, which deals with classroom capacity, and will allow the University to fully accommodate the students, according to a Nov. 21 email Latting sent to the Wheel.

“It truly is the maximum we can accommodate while maintaining the quality — both inside and outside the classroom,” Latting wrote. “We are committed to keeping this quality for both our current students and any admitted visiting/transient students who choose to enroll here.”

Latting emphasized that the University is not trying to recruit students but to make Puerto Rican students aware of the opportunity if they require it.

“We’re stepping in to provide assistance where that’s requested,” Latting said. “We’re not trying to recruit students away from their home universities.”

The decision to help Puerto Rican students aligns with the University’s mission, McBride said in the University press release.

“We are compelled to step up and offer an academic home to students as they continue their studies in our supportive and diverse community,” McBride said.

Emory has made similar accommodations for students who attended universities that were shut down due to natural disasters in the past. Students who were affected by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and who attended schools such as Tulane University and the University of New Orleans were able to apply as visiting students. Some of those students transferred to and graduated from Emory.

The Office of Undergraduate Admission committed to accepting Puerto Rican students Oct. 27, according to a Nov. 21 email from Latting. Applications for visiting students are due Dec. 10.
Christina Yan contributed reporting.