Tulane University in New Orleans announced on Friday that it will offer one semester of free tuition to students from universities and colleges in Puerto Rico. Tulane will accept applications for the limited number of Spring semester seats until November 1st.
Students will still be required to pay tuition to their home institutions, many of which face serious obstacles to re-opening by Spring. Large portions of the U.S. territory are still without electricity and clean water.
Tulane will, as the announcement put it, truly be ‘paying it forward.’ The university closed for four months in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and universities around the U.S. took in Tulane students on short notice.
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Several other colleges and universities, including the University of Arkansas and several in Florida, have offered in-state tuition to Puerto Rican students. But Tulane’s arrangement could be more beneficial for Puerto Rican universities as they work to rebuild.
However, Tulane’s offer also highlights the island’s grim long-term prospects after Hurricane Maria. With a battered economy and unmanageable public debt, Puerto Rico was already experiencing significant population drain to the mainland before the storm. With recovery from Maria expected to take years, that flow is likely to intensify. Educated workers and professionals are the most likely to leave, potentially setting the island’s economy on an even steeper downward spiral.