Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Katharine Fretwell ’81 has spent her morning discussing Early Decision applications—it’s a busy time of year for her staff—but another type of candidate is weighing heavily on her mind: students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Two months after Hurricane Maria, college students from the islands continue to experience devastating repercussions from the storm, including interruptions to their studies. As one way to help, Amherst will enroll, for the Spring 2018 semester, a limited number of students affected by the hurricane and will cover their educational expenses.
The College’s newly launched Special Visiting Student Program is for U.S. citizens who currently attend a college or university in Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, and who have completed at least 32 credit hours of coursework.
For those accepted through the program, Amherst will cover tuition and fees, room and board, books, transportation and health insurance, as well as students’ spring tuition at their home institutions. The application period opened Nov. 6; the deadline to apply is Dec. 1.
“We want to raise awareness of the challenges students and families are experiencing in Puerto Rico,” Fretwell said. “The whole island was impacted. They can’t drive away from that circumstance.”
Through a selective admission process, Fretwell and her team will identify a small number of students who are a good match academically. They will not be required to provide any financial-aid documentation.
While several other colleges and universities are also offering berths to displaced students, Amherst is going a step further than most in paying the missed semester’s tuition at each student’s home school.
Fretwell said that such a step is in keeping with the Amherst spirit of collegiality and is aimed at helping colleges and universities on the islands recover economically.
“If we’re providing relief to students, we feel like we also need to help schools in need,” she said.
Students accepted through the program will be admitted only for the spring semester (and will not be eligible to subsequently transfer to the College), but Fretwell said she hopes the program will create new connections between Amherst and the other two communities.
“Students who choose to apply and choose to come here will be able to take full advantage of what we offer at the College,” she said. “They’ll be fully fledged members of the community for the time they’re with us.”
Students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are encouraged to apply to the visiting program. Applicants will be notified by the end of the December if they have been accepted, with the goal of giving them enough time to come to campus for New Student Orientation on Jan. 17, 2018.
Also this week on campus, the Alianza Boricua de Amherst College—a group of College faculty, staff and students of Puerto Rican descent or with ties in the Island—is holding a Puerto Rico relief event on Nov. 16, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in the Valentine Quad in support of the island.