Amherst to Host Puerto Rican and USVI Students
Issue   |   Tue, 11/28/2017 - 21:25

Dean of the Faculty Catherine Epstein announced the college’s plan to host students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands affected by Hurricane Maria on Wednesday, Nov. 14 in a community-wide email.

In this upcoming spring semester, she said, a limited number of students whose studies were disrupted by the hurricane will come to the college for one semester of study.

“Earlier this fall, President [Biddy] Martin’s senior staff discussed how Amherst might support students and colleges and universities in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands impacted by Hurricane Maria,” Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Katie Fretwell said in an email interview.

“Anticipating that we would have a high number of vacant beds on campus for the spring semester due to an unusually high count of current students opting to study abroad enabled us to envision a special visiting student program,” she added.

According to Fretwell, the number of students accepted will depend on the quality of applications and amount of available housing.

To participate in the program, the students must be U.S. citizens attending a post-secondary educational institution in Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands. Additionally, students must have completed at least 32 credit hours of coursework.

Students accepted into the program will complete the spring semester at Amherst before returning to their home institutions, but they will not have the option to transfer to Amherst full-time.

Epstein asked the Amherst community to share information about the program and encourage students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to apply. “We look forward to welcoming these new friends to Amherst next term,” Epstein wrote.

The application asks for a transcript of academic history, an essay that outlines intended plans for studying at the college and, if possible, a letter of recommendation from a faculty member of the student’s home institution and standardized testing results.

“We will want to make certain that participating students have academic interests that Amherst can support and that the students are well-suited to the rigor and learning environment at Amherst,” Fretwell said.

She added that the admissions office understands that due to the disturbances caused by the hurricane, many students will not have complete access to some of these documents, so the request for documents will remain “flexible.”

Although other colleges, such as Brown, are implementing similar programs around the country, Fretwell said that the program at Amherst differs from peer institutions’.

Due to “an interest in providing support to our higher education peers and the economic recovery in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” Fretwell said, the college is not only covering Amherst tuition, books, housing and health insurance for the students, but is also paying their tuition at their home institutions.

“I’m super excited about the program,” Director of the Multicultural Resource Center Bulaong Ramiz-Hall said. “It’s a common thing that’s happening in other colleges around the area, so I’m just excited that Amherst is a part of it.”

According to Fretwell, funding for the program comes from the college’s operating budget contingency.

The Office of Admission started accepting applications on Nov. 6, and the deadline for applications is Dec. 1. The office is responsible for the program’s development and has promoted the opportunity through comunication channels such as the college website, social media, print media, alumni contacts and direct communication with the University of Puerto Rico, the largest university in Puerto Rico, as well as the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said Fretwell.

Applicants will be notified of the status of their admission in late December, and accepted students will arrive on campus by Jan. 17 for new student orientation.

“We are proud to make this opportunity possible for students impacted by Hurricane Maria who are eager to continue their higher education without further interruption,” Fretwell said. “I am certain that Amherst students, too, will benefit from an additional presence of students from Puerto Rico in our community.”