Around 200 Puerto Rican students and their families toured Florida International University (FIU) on Wednesday to see if the school is a good fit for them to catch up with their studies and enroll in the spring semester.
Gov. Rick Scott has waived out of state tuition for students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who were displaced by the recent hurricanes. For those who are accepted and choose to come to FIU, an estimated $270,000 is being offered on a first-come, first-served basis to these students through the FIU Strong grant. The grant has been funded by donations from the community and will help pay housing and tuition.
“This is allowing them to have some sort of normalcy for at least the next few months. As their families back home on their islands are rebuilding they can take some classes continue on with their education,” said Director of Undergraduate Admissions Jody Glassman.
One such student is Grecia Cruz, a sophomore at the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey. “It’s gonna be a lot of help for us and for my family. Specifically, my mom, [she] is doing a lot of sacrifices, my dad also. I'm going to be alone here,” she said.
Cruz also looked at the University of Central Florida because her aunt and uncle live nearby. However, she is grateful for the opportunities FIU is offering. She remembered a time this semester in which she had to take a class by flashlight.
“These students can take any classes that are open and available. We're using any unofficial transcripts to help them ensure that they have the proper prerequisites and foundation to take the classes here at FIU,” said Glassman.
However, Cruz and her mother talked about the difficulties in getting her credits transferred from UPR. If her credits from this semester aren’t transferred she will have to retake them and be a semester behind.
This isn’t the first time FIU has had to take in displaced students after a natural disaster.
“We had a similar program during Hurricane Katrina. We provided assistance to those students that were also displaced by Katrina and continue their studies while New Orleans was getting back on its feet,” said, Jennifer Bravo, director of transfer and transition services here at FIU.
So far, over 1,000 displaced students have applied to take classes at FIU.