Kean Offers In-state Tuition to Students Affected by Natural Disasters


Amy Morales was sleeping when Hurricane Maria ripped through her home in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico last September, breaking windows and sending clothes and debris flying through the house and into the storm outside.

“It felt like a cyclone,” said Morales, 20. “It was horrible.”

Her family’s safety was the only thing on her mind, but in the weeks after the hurricane, the physical therapy student at EDP University in Humacao soon realized that the devastating storm had disrupted her college education. The same had happened to her 18-year-old sister Valerie, who was one month into her freshman year at University of Turabo when the hurricane hit.

Starting in January 2018, the Morales sisters will get their college educations back on track under a new Kean University program that offers in-state tuition rates to anyone whose college education was interrupted by a natural disaster. The Kean Board of Trustees voted to approve the new policy this month following the devastating hurricanes in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Texas and Florida earlier this year.

“Kean is ranked nationally for its diversity, and our students are recognized for their commitment to volunteerism and community service,” said Kean President Dawood Farahi, Ph.D. “This is one more way that Kean is rededicating itself to those ideals. This new policy will help make sure that no one’s educational dreams are postponed by natural disasters.”

Under the program, an out-of-state student whose college is closed in the aftermath of a natural disaster would be admitted under the regular transfer student application process and attend Kean at the in-state rate, which is nearly 47 percent lower than out-of-state tuition. If the student chooses to remain at Kean even after the school in the disaster area reopens, Kean’s tuition would remain at the in-state level. Financial assistance will be provided to affected students on a case-by-case basis.

“Hurricane Maria was devastating for Puerto Rico, and it continues to disrupt services on the island,” said Marsha McCarthy, Kean associate vice president for enrollment management. “While many of the colleges and universities in Puerto Rico have reopened, having this policy in place now makes it easier for Kean to support students in Puerto Rico and elsewhere in the event of future disasters.”

The Morales family continues to deal with the destruction left by the hurricane. Amy, Valerie and their mother, Luz, moved in with their grandmother in a one-bedroom apartment in Roselle. Their father is still in Puerto Rico, cleaning up and preparing to move the family permanently to New Jersey.

“It is extremely important for me to continue my studies since I want to contribute to society,” Valerie Morales said. “I want to succeed and make my family proud of my accomplishments. I want to improve myself and be someone in life who has achieved her goals.”

Photo Caption:  Valerie and Amy Morales had their college plans in Puerto Rico disrupted by Hurricane Maria. They will be attending Kean University starting in January under a program that offers in-state tuition rates to any student whose college education has been interrupted by a natural disaster.

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