Working with limited means

In a response to the widespread damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina, Portland State is doing what they can with limited resources to provide housing and financial aid to students displaced by the hurricane.


Will Page was already a week into his classes at the University of New Orleans when the full danger of Hurricane Katrina became evident. When he heard that PSU was accepting students affected by the storm, he left before the hurricane hit.


While PSU has opened its doors and welcomed displaced students like Page, the question remains about whether the school can do enough. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) spokeswoman Marge Moule said that while they have been able to provide some assistance to evacuated students, no funds have been allocated to state universities to accommodate them. 


Page is one of 25 Gulf Coast students who were admitted to PSU on a provisional basis after the fall admission deadline was extended for those affected by the hurricane. Six of these students are currently living on campus, with three staying at University Place while they await permanent housing.


“Our best guess is that people will be in temporary housing until early November,” said John Eckman, associate director of auxiliary services, adding that when displaced students called needing a place to go, “we took care of them as quickly as we could.” 

Without assistance from the federal government, PSU is only able to offer standard financial aid packages to displaced students, said Kenneth McGhee, director of financial aid.


“I’ve gotten a lot of requests from students for help, but these things are just out of my jurisdiction,” he said.


 “As many people in their situation might feel, I think [displaced students] would like to see more help,” said Brian O’Connell, Gulf Coast student coordinator in the office of admissions, adding that every student he had talked to has seemed appreciative. “I think we are doing what is necessary.”


Students who were paying in-state tuition at their home institutions will be offered waivers so they will not have to pay out-of-state tuition, which is about $3,000 more per term for a full time undergraduate. The waivers are valid only through fall term and will be dispersed only as long as their home institutions continue to be disrupted.

Page, like other displaced students from Hurricane Katrina, was admitted to PSU without transcripts.


“They admitted me with next to nothing,” Page said.


College Housing Northwest and several Portland State departments are using an already existing overflow-housing program at University Place to provide housing needs for displaced Gulf Coast students. During their temporary stay, students will pay a standard rate of $630 for single occupancy and $420 for double occupancy room rather than a daily hotel rate.


Portland State is just one of a host of public Oregon universities that are assisting displaced students. University of Oregon will admit students on a provisional basis for fall term, and had accepted 30 undergraduate students by Sept. 20. UO waives tuition and fees for displaced students who have already paid tuition and fees at Gulf Coast schools, and its Law School has arranged to loan laptops to displaced students.


Oregon State University will admit Gulf Coast students until 5 p.m. on Friday. OSU waives the university application fee and housing application fee. Phi Gamma Delta, a fraternity at Oregon State, is offering housing and meal plans for five displaced students free of cost.


In addition to matching donations to the Red Cross by faculty, students and staff, Willamette University is offering one semester of free tuition to students who had enrolled at Gulf Coast schools.


Lewis and Clark College accepted about 20 students, including some to its law school.

Reed College has announced it cannot accommodate any more students.