A Congressional proposal to assist universities that housed or currently house students displaced by Hurricane Katrina was not accepted by President Bush earlier this month.
A portion of these funds were to go to help host universities, including Temple, meet unexpected costs by providing $1,000 for each dislocated student they admitted.
In September, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced a plan to ask Congress for $227 million to assist students and universities affected by the hurricane.
However, this money was not allocated in the emergency spending package that President Bush submitted to Congress at the end of October.
Samara Yudof, assistant press secretary for the Department of Education, said that Congress will be negotiating a conference report for the hurricane reconciliation package.
“We will be working with the House and Senate to try to get the administration’s proposals reflected,” Yudof said.
Temple currently accommodates 43 student evacuees from damaged campuses across the Gulf Coast without charging them tuition fees. Therefore, if the proposed plan had been realized, Temple would have received $43,000 in reimbursement funds.
Administrators said that the economic burden did not deter Temple’s choice to accept evacuees free of charge.
“It wasn’t a financial decision, it was a human decision,” Vice President of Student Affairs Theresa Powell said. “Irrespective of what the government did in terms of cutting the funds, we needed to do the right thing.”
Both Temple officials and displaced students expressed discontent with the federal government’s apparent decision, but noted the willingness of local organizations and communities to help fill the financial void.
“That’s what [the government] did and they’re held responsible for that,” Powell said. “I’m proud of what we did as a university.”
According to Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Patrick Day, local fundraising efforts and aid from the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency have alleviated some of the expenses incurred.
“I’ve seen such an outpouring of support from members of the Temple community and citizens of the city of Philadelphia for the 43 students who have come to Temple,” Day said. “We’ve all been impacted by this national tragedy.”
Christina Zendt, a junior art history major from Tulane University, said she was grateful for this support at Temple.
“It’s been really good being here,” Zendt said. “I’m really enjoying my classes, my teachers have been very helpful … and I like it.”
Zendt, who intends to return to New Orleans upon completion of her fall semester at Temple, said she was not surprised by the government’s actions. She also condemned the government’s initial response to the hurricane.
“The people that were left were poor people they didn’t care to pick up,” Zendt said. “The people that could afford to get out got out.”
Tiffany Curtis, a sophomore psychology major from Xavier University of Louisiana, was one of the people who almost did not get out. Curtis, a Philadelphia native, could not raise the necessary funds to evacuate the area and said that she would still be in New Orleans if the company her mother works for had not paid for her return trip.
“Being college students and already having scraped up money to pay for tuition, a lot of us didn’t have a way out,” Curtis said. “If it wasn’t for other schools housing us, then our educations, our dreams and our goals would have to have been put on hold.”
Curtis said that she is outraged by the lack of compensation for institutions that have provided for her and other evacuees in their time of need.
“I’m furious and angry that these schools that have done this for us … just got slapped in the face,” she said. “The government could give things back to Temple, and the fact that they just changed their minds adds more fury to my thoughts and emotions.”
Several students had not anticipated being away from their home institutions for a prolonged period of time. Due to the rushed evacuation, they were not able to pack sufficiently.
Adelle Newell, a senior chemistry major at Xavier, said she expected to return to her school immediately.
“Part of me was not realizing the magnitude of it and hoping that we would be going back,” she said. “But I soon realized that I would have to find somewhere else to go quickly.”
Newell said she was not able to find a host school in her home state of Georgia that would not charge tuition.
“Allowing us to come here for free was the best thing that Temple could have done to help us out,” she said.
Powell attributed this lack of preparedness to the dire needs of some students who were relocated.
“We had students out there who had no place to go and had nothing other than the clothes they were wearing,” she said.
The money generated by PHEAA, along with campus and city fundraising projects, enabled Temple to supply student evacuees with books, food, clothing and other basic provisions, Day said.
Venuri Siriwardane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.