UM takes in students affected by Hurricane

The University of Miami is accommodating as many students displaced by Hurricane Katrina as it can, University President Donna E. Shalala announced Thursday through a letter emailed to all students, faculty and staff.

These students, from universities such as Tulane, Loyola New Orleans and Xavier, are being enrolled as non-degree seeking students who can take a maximum of nine credits at the University. They are also paying tuition for those credits, and the tuition is being put into an escrow account that will go to the students’ home institutions.

“We’re not stealing them from their home campuses,” Dr. Shalala told The Hurricane in a phone interview Friday. “We’re not going to benefit financially. The most important thing for us was to be ethical.”

Because the students are unable to produce a transcript, UM is accepting any type of ID from the Gulf-coast universities affected by Katrina, from the equivalent of a ‘Cane card to an acceptance letter. The students are also filling out a short application to the University.

“We didn’t want to delay getting them into classes,” Dr. Shalala said.

The American Council on Education estimates that up to 100,000 students from more than 30 Gulf-coast colleges and universities have been displaced by the hurricane. As of Friday afternoon, 31 displaced students had enrolled at UM, with 25 more being advised on possible enrollment. Of the 31, around 75 percent are from Tulane, with a couple from the University of New Orleans and the rest from Loyola University New Orleans, according to Margot S. Winick, executive director for media relations.

At UM, each student’s case is being considered on a one-by-one basis by the office of undergraduate admission. Admission to the law and medical schools is being coordinated by the national law and medical school associations, although Dr. Shalala said that some law students are already auditing classes at UM until their home schools tell them how to proceed. The business school graduate admission office is also working with a few displaced MBA students to find out the best way to help them.

Although no exact breakdown was available yet, Dr. Shalala said that more upperclassmen had been admitted than freshmen as of Friday morning. About one-third of the 400 inquiries the University had received by Thursday-it got 200 more on Friday-were from out-of-state students. They were told to apply in the Spring, if need be, and to look schools in their home states for the time being.

The students that have enrolled are from South Florida and are living at home, as the University has no extra dorms.

“We don’t have any room,” Dr. Shalala said, “but we have to do our share [to help].”

The University was trying to place students in the classes they need to stay on track to graduate, even though most classes are not open. Dr. Shalala praised the deans and faculty for their support in admitting students to their already-full classes.

“Faculty are calling to say that they have one or two slots left in their classrooms,” Dr. Shalala said. “They are all being very flexible.”

According to Winick, some faculty have also been calling the administration to offer housing for displaced students.

Dr. Shalala said she thinks UM students will understand the new Gulf coast students’ plight.

“This has been a very traumatic experience,” she said. “I think [UM students] will welcome an extra chair in a class to help a displaced student. Students should be very proud of the University of doing this.”

Dr. Shalala and President T.K. Wetherell of FSU purchased airtime to ask for hurricane relief donations. The commercial was set to air on halftime during the UM-FSU game yesterday.

Patricia Mazzei can be contacted at