Thousands of university students are among the many fleeing the Gulf Coast. And as they search for a place to learn, Texas A&M has opened its gates.
"There could be as many as 75,000 displaced students in the impacted area," said A&M President Robert Gates, "so we felt we had to reach out a little bit, and maybe our example will cause the others to look a little harder."
The others being other schools, who so far have only offered limited space for affected students. If they can make it to A&M in the next few days for class, there are plenty of desks waiting for them.
President Gates has announced up to 1,000 students from Katrina-hit schools can come to College Station for classes. Faculty can continue their studies here, and there's even space for whole programs to relocate. The university has also allocated $200,000 for incoming student resources.
"We'll treat them, essentially, as exchange students in the sense that they'll come here for a semester, take three, four or five courses, and then we'll just transfer those credits back to their home university, and they won't have lost a semester," Gates said.
A&M officials say they have room here on campus for approximately 200 students, while they can find housing for the rest off-campus if necessary. Class size is another issue Dr. Gates looked into, but says it shouldn't be that much of a problem.
"I would wager there's not a single faculty member or single student who's going to complain," Gates said.
At least with a small sample, students wholeheartedly back up Gates's wager.
"What a fantastic way to say, 'We're here for you, and we're here to help out in times of tragedy,'" said Aggie Braden Deckard.
"All the students from Louisiana or wherever they come from would be accepted with open arms and treated just like any other student on campus," said Derek Free.
"I know that it'll make our campus even more crowded, but they don't have any other place to go," said Brea Hughes, "and I know if something like this happened at A&M, if people didn't allow us to go someplace and get an education, it'd be pretty tough."
But for those toughing out Katrina's wrath, the welcome mat in Aggieland has been laid out.
All A&M System schools are allowing students from hurricane-hit schools to come, with spots available for several thousand according to system officials.
Those interested in attending A&M classes can contact the Office of Admissions and Records at (979) 845-1064.
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