- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 27, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Stephanie Swisher is settling in nicely as a freshman at the University of Virginia, enjoying classes, Naval ROTC, club volleyball and football Saturdays.

Things are going so well, in fact, that she would rather not return to Tulane University in New Orleans — the school she had expected to attend until Hurricane Katrina struck on Aug. 29.

“The argument that everyone’s giving me is that I’m a freshman so I’ve never known Tulane, I need to give it a chance,’” she said. “My argument is, ‘why should I have to?’”

But Miss Swisher probably will have to give Tulane a chance. Despite her wishes — and a 600-signature petition she helped organize — Virginia is sticking by the conditions under which visiting students were admitted after the hurricane — they must leave when their school reopens. Tulane is scheduled to reopen Jan. 17.



After Katrina, colleges across the country took in an estimated 18,000 displaced New Orleans students. Now, the New Orleans schools desperately need those students to return next semester and pay tuition.

Exactly how many will return won’t be known until January. Tulane says 80 percent of its students have reregistered. Loyola University, which received little damage, just started registration and can only claim more than half, for now. The situation will likely be more dire at schools such as Xavier and Dillard, which suffered more storm damage.

Some students simply want to stay where they are, particularly freshmen who never got attached to their original schools.

Student councils at Virginia, Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley have passed resolutions calling on their schools to be more flexible in letting New Orleans students at least apply to transfer.

Officially, those and other colleges are saying no, wary of breaking their promises to other schools or, in some cases, of letting students use the situation to “trade up” to a more prestigious school.

Of course, students won’t be forced to return, and the host college can simply refuse to let them transfer there next semester. But there’s nothing to prevent students from withdrawing from their New Orleans schools and trying to transfer next fall like anyone else.

The situation has placed college administrators in a bind.

“These students have been through a great deal here, and obviously they’re just trying to look for a little consistency in their lives,” said Esther Gulli, chief of staff to the vice chancellor for student affairs at Berkeley. “But our agreements with their schools were, when they were open and ready for business, we would send their students back.”

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