Displaced Puerto Ricans Offered Discount Tuition By Florida Colleges

More than a week after Hurricane Maria plunged Puerto Rico in darkness, a number of South Florida colleges have announced tuition fee discounts for students affected by the hurricane.

Palm Beach State, Broward and Miami-Dade colleges pledged in-state tuition for Puerto Rican students, after Florida Gov. Rick Scott asked all public colleges and universities in Florida to make the move.

St. Thomas University promised free room and board to the first 100 college students from Puerto Rico and affected Caribbean islands, and Florida Atlantic University said it will waive tuition fees this school year for all current students with a permanent address in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico’s 258,000 enrolled undergraduates already saw their colleges close down earlier this month after Hurricane Irma wrecked havoc on the island.

Fabiola Victoria Pagán, a fourth-year chemistry student at the University of Puerto Rico, said to the Chronicle of Higher Education: “We’ve only had three days of class. I have no idea how they will make up for all of this lost time.”

J. Miguel Santiago, a fourth-year journalism student at the University of Puerto Rico, tweeted: “Pretty much everyone is worried. The UPR has probably had its worst year in modern history.”

The University of Puerto Rico will remain closed for at least several weeks, while students, volunteers and staff clean up. The island continues to struggle with a lack of power, water and food, and residents are also suffering a significant cash shortage.

San Juan resident Monica Morales spoke to NBC news about the precariousness of the situation, including hours-long waiting lines at ATMs and stories of residents robbing the few who were able to take out any cash at all.

She said: “There’s a lot of tension, it’s hard to find water and food right now and we still don’t have any supermarkets open near us.”

According to Walter Alomar, president of the University of Puerto Rico’s board of governors, it could take months to repair the damage.

He said: “They have been working, cleaning, and they have a really good attitude. In spite of the severe damages, we’re now starting to rebuild.”

Donate here to vetted local organizations through the crowdfunding platform GlobalGiving to get emergency supplies on the ground and help with long-term recovery.