Cornell University becomes Noah’s Ark for Puerto Rican students
People recover items from a boat they found washed up on the shore, after Hurricane Maria hit the island in September, in Loiza, Puerto Rico October 26, 2017. Source: Reuters/Alvin Baez

Hurricane Maria wreaked devastation and a major humanitarian crisis in the United States territory of Puerto Rico in late September and early October. Hundreds of people have reportedly died and it has become the costliest natural disaster in Puerto Rican history.

Enter Cornell University.

The New York Ivy Leaguer is offering a free semester including tuition, room and board to students of Universidad de Puerto Rico (UPR), which has been forced to shut for the meantime in the wake of Maria.

Cornell President Martha E. Pollack said, as quoted by the Cornell Chronicle:

“These young people, and nearly everyone in Puerto Rico, have gone through a terrible trauma.”

“This is our way of reaching out to them and our university colleagues in Puerto Rico to show we stand with them and their families during this difficult time in their academic, professional and personal lives.”

About 70 percent of Puerto Rico is without electricity after the storm hit more than a month ago, battering the island with winds of up to 240 km/h. Damages are estimated to be worth at least US$90 billion.

The contents of a home are seen from the air during recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria near Utuado, Puerto Rico, on Oct 10, 2017. Source: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

Up to 50 full-time undergraduate and professional master’s degree students and eight graduate research degree students from UPR will be given the opportunity at Cornell.

“Officials at [UPR] told us that this offer for the spring semester may be useful to certain students, and we are delighted to provide the option for continuation of study,” said Provost Michael Kotlikoff.

“We have no idea how many students will respond, but the offer is there. It’s one way, in these troubled times, of demonstrating goodwill toward our colleagues in Puerto Rico.”

“This is a campuswide effort,” said Glenn Altschuler the School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions.

“Students are going to be giving up some room in their residences; faculty are going to be teaching some extra students; deans are doing the work to make it happen; and our president and provost are leading the way in how we should be responding.”

Classes will run between January and May 2018.

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