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Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities are stepping up to help students displaced as a result of Hurricane Katrina.
College officials met via video conference this morning to discuss their responses to the disaster, especially to the thousands of college students along the Gulf Coast whose fall semester was interrupted by the hurricane.
“Our hearts and prayers go out to all those along the Gulf Coast who were greatly impacted by the hurricane. It has disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, including thousands of college students who were enrolled in college classes this fall,” Chancellor Paul Risser said. “Our state system institutions have indicated that they will provide assistance to those students and others impacted by the hurricane. There are numerous examples of what our institutions are doing, and we hope that these gestures will help these students return to some sense of normalcy in their lives and provide them with an uninterrupted path to a college education.”
To help displaced students continue or start their college education with as minimal interruption as possible, some institutions are making the admission and enrollment process easier by extending fall enrollment deadlines, waiving late fees and even allowing current students to withdraw with full refunds.
Many colleges and universities have offered to waive non-resident tuition for students from the affected institutions and waive tuition for Oklahomans returning from these institutions this fall, including Eastern Oklahoma State College, Wilburton; Carl Albert State College, Poteau; Rogers State University, Claremore; and the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond. In addition, universities, such as Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, and Cameron University, Lawton, are working to assist students or faculty who are called to active duty as members of the National Guard. Many other institutions are offering similar programs to assist with tuition.
Housing is available at some institutions, and college officials are working with local agencies, organizations and churches to find temporary housing for displaced students and faculty.
Many student clubs and organizations are collecting donations of cash, food, water and clothing to help victims of the hurricane. The University of Oklahoma, Norman and OSU will be soliciting donations during their home football games this Saturday. There are also blood drives popping up on campuses across the state and more are planned.
There are many other noteworthy initiatives and activities planned or currently under way to either assist in the cleanup efforts or provide assistance to displaced students and faculty, including:
- Students and faculty at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, Chickasha, are planning a trip to the Gulf Coast, Oct. 20-23, to assist with cleanup.
- Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, is offering full-time and temporary positions to college professors who may have been displaced during the disaster.
- The 4CNet call center, which is located in the business incubator in the Haney Center at Seminole State College, will be hiring temporary employees and going to 24-hour coverage beginning today to assist with national American Red Cross donation calls.
- Some institutions, including UCO and EOSC, are actively working on efforts to “adopt” institutions that were affected by the hurricane.
The activities and initiatives mentioned throughout this news release are only a portion of what the state’s public colleges and universities are doing to help in the relief efforts. A more-detailed list is available by visiting Oklahoma’s higher education Web site at www.okhighered.org.