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Volume 71, Issue 11, Tuesday, September 6, 2005


Gulf Coasts displaced students hope 
to find new home at UH

By Rachael Seeley 
Senior Staff Writer

The University opened its doors to students who cannot return to universities devastated by hurricane Katrina last week, enrolling 464 students as of Friday night, Director of Admissions Susanna Finnell said. 

"We've all been through higher education, so we know what it would be like to lose a whole year or a whole semester," Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences John J. Antel said. "Some of these students were in their last year and they were planning on graduating, getting a job, getting married, starting a family and having kids. If their lives were put on hold for a semester or a year because of this disaster -- that would be terrible."

Brandon Hendricks /The Daily Cougar

A relative of Hurricane Katrina victim Nellie Freeman searches for his 85-year-old loved one in the Astrodome. The sporting arena is being used as a temporary shelter for thousands of evacuees from the Gulf Coast, many of whom are being transported from the crippled Superdome in New Orleans. 

The University also waived application fees and offered in-state tuition rates to the displaced students. Finnell said the majority of students were from Xavier University of Louisiana and she expected to enroll over 500 conditional students by the end of Saturday; they will continue to enroll through today.

"They don't have a lot of paperwork, so we're just believing them and they are signing a contract so that we can admit them as a conditional student," Finnell said. "It's only this semester. After this semester, we'll see what happens and take it from there."

Many of the incoming students who lined the hallway of E. Cullen on Saturday said they arrived in Houston with little more than a few changes of clothes, expecting only to stay a few days and return to areas affected by Hurricane Katrina -- Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Now they are finding themselves relying on the charity of family, friends and the Houston community for many of their basic needs.

"I'm surprised how quickly we've adapted to enrolling students. There is so much for a student to have to go through to be enrolled, but we seem to have created a method and it's gone smoothly," Finnell said. 

Vice President of Student Affairs Elwyn C. Lee was available Saturday morning to help accommodate the housing needs of displaced students during special extended hours at the Office of Admissions.

"We don't have anywhere to live -- no house, no nothing," said Candace Davis, a marketing senior from the University of New Orleans, trying to be admitted into UH. 

In addition, many evacuee students are wondering how they will afford to pay tuition a second time to UH after already emptying their bank accounts to pay their original universities.

"They want us to pay for housing and a meal plan, and what they don't understand is that we just paid for that last week -- we can't pay a couple thousand dollars, we don't have anything," said Aisha Briscoe, a business management junior from UNO.

Despite the headaches, Briscoe said she appreciates the outpouring of help she has received from people in Houston.

As many of the evacuee students start their first day of classes today, current students can help by showing them around campus, offering copies of class notes and extending hands of friendship, Antel said.

"This campus is a lot bigger than our old campus, and it's a lot more diverse," said Diane Nguyen, a biology and pre-med junior from Xavier.

Texas Southern University has also opened its doors, allowing in nearly 300 displaced students while Rice University has offered Houston-area undergraduates enrolled at Tulane University the opportunity to take classes tuition free -- if they already paid their tuition at Tulane -- on a space available basis.

The Office of Admission will continue to admit conditional students Tuesday and enroll them in classes that can serve more students than quotas formerly allowed.

"We were full before we admitted anybody," UH President Jay Gouge said. "Our goal is to try to get them all registered."

More information about the UH response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina can be found online at

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