ALBANY — Students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who have been displaced by hurricanes Maria and Irma will be able to get in-state tuition if they transfer to a SUNY college.
The SUNY Board of Trustees on Friday heeded Gov. Andrew Cuomo's call on Wednesday to provide in-state tuition to students from the two islands ravaged by the storms last month.
The change would afford students from the U.S. territories a considerable savings: In-state tuition is $6,670 a year, while out-of-state tuition is $16,320.
The City University of New York is expected to take similar action.
“SUNY has a responsibility, as a public institution, to step in and help students when circumstances beyond their control may affect their ability to attend, pay for, and succeed in college,” SUNY board chairman H. Carl McCall said in a statement.
The nation's largest public university system took similar steps after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the earthquake in Haiti in 2010.
Cuomo asked SUNY and CUNY to take the actions as part of New York efforts to help the islands. New York has the largest Puerto Rican population outside the island, and it has been preparing for an influx of residents after Hurricane Maria wrecked the island.
"The obliteration of normal life on Puerto Rico is causing many hardships, including creating barriers to the higher education dreams of its college students," Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, chair of the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, said in a statement.
"Today, SUNY has once again delivered decisive action at a time of great need and one that will further the education of displaced college students from Puerto Rico."
CUNY said it also supports the decision and will vote on the measure later this month.
“I wholeheartedly support the governor’s call and anticipate that my colleagues on the board will agree to take this important step in enabling students from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to resume their college education," said CUNY Board chairman William Thompson, Jr.
2 On Your Side had a lot of questions in the newsroom during our editorial meeting Friday about how this would work: Will the state have less revenue because these students won't be paying the out-of-state rate? How will the campuses handle the extra students? How many students are we talking about? And, is there enough housing?
Only the SUNY spokesperson in Albany can answer those questions, and she did not get back to us by our deadline, but we were able to find out more by going through the resolution adopted by the board.
You might be wondering how long the reduced rates will last. Well, the resolution only covers undergraduate and graduate students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who were displaced for the 2017/18 academic year.
This includes SUNY institutions, but does it include our community colleges? The SUNY board is encouraging the boards of trustees of the 30 community colleges operating under the program of SUNY to take similar action.
If you have more questions about this program, you should call SUNY on Monday at (518) 320-1100.