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Educators Help Students Affected by Tsunami

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Educators Help Students Affected by Tsunami

By Kristin Bagnato

In response to the far-reaching effects of the Dec. 26 tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the Institute of International Education (IIE) and the Freeman Foundation are accepting applications for emergency grants to help students studying in the United States, the groups announced last month.

The grants, in amounts of up to $5,000, will be offered to undergraduate students from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand who are studying in the United States and struggling financially because of the tsunami’s effect on the economies of their home countries.

U.S. schools may nominate up to four students for the grants. Funding for the grants comes from returned and unused monies from a fund established in 1997 for students affected by the Asian financial crisis.

“By providing emergency assistance to students from Southeast Asia whose families may have lost their homes or livelihoods, our goal is to alleviate immediate financial burdens and provide a measure of security during these difficult times when so many have lost so much. We wish to assist and encourage U.S. campuses to help their students to be able to stay here and complete their studies,” Houghton Freeman, chairman of the Freeman Foundation, said.

To be eligible for the Freeman Emergency Assistance for Students grant, the student must be a citizen or permanent resident of one of the countries listed above, be an undergraduate in an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree program at an accredited U.S. institution, be in good academic and immigration standing and be able to show that he or she has been directly affected financially by the tsunami.

Along with the student requirements, the school must show how it will help the student. The institution doesn’t have to match the foundation’s contribution, but it must help through tuition waivers or other forms of support.

According to the IIE, there were more than 13,000 eligible students from Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia studying in the United States as of last year. At this time the offer isn’t open to the estimated 40,000 students from  Sri Lanka and India, though the IIE is seeking support for a similar program for these students.

Schools already are responding to the offer. As of Jan. 13, “We’ve had 26 inquiries from campuses who want an application form,” says Peggy Blumenthal, IIE’s vice president of educational services. “And we will be making the awards within two weeks of reviewing the applications.”

Students must apply for the grants through an international student advisor, or similar university official: they cannot nominate themselves. Applications may be requested by e-mailing FreemanEAS@iie.org

In addition to the joint effort by the IIE and the Freeman Foundation, some community colleges also are implementing programs to identify and assist their students from affected areas.

The Dallas County Community College District in Texas is offering aid to its students through the DCCCD Foundation’s Student Emergency Need Scholarship Fund.

Many school organizations are spearheading fund-raising drives, such as the Student Government Association at Richland College in Dallas, which is trying to raise $1 from each student, faculty and staff member at the school.

Other students have been moved to start their own fund-raising drives, including nursing students at the Community College of Denver, who held yard sales to benefit the relief effort.

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