CONCORD, N.H. — A New Hampshire university is offering a free semester to college students displaced by Hurricane Harvey, 12 years after it helped a similar group after Hurricane Katrina.
Franklin Pierce University will provide free tuition, room and board to up to 20 students for the fall semester. The university made a similar offer in 2005 and ended up enrolling 14 students from Louisiana, including Jessica Orgeron, who said Thursday she was close to tears remembering the warm welcome she received.
“A group of women made me a quilt, they made quilts for all the students who came, and I still have that,” she said. “I can’t say enough good things about my experience at Franklin Pierce.”
University President Kim Mooney said she wants to provide a temporary home and safe environment for students who might otherwise struggle to keep their education on track after such a devastating storm. Mooney, who has reached out to her counterparts at several Texas colleges and universities, said the offer is in keeping with the school’s vision statement, which calls on students to be “catalysts for positive change within and beyond their communities.”
“We prepare leaders of conscience at Franklin Pierce, and right now as we witness the devastation in Texas and launch our 2017-2018 academic year, we feel very strongly that this is the right thing to do,” she said.
Orgeron, 33, was a 21-year-old senior at Loyola University in New Orleans when Katrina struck. Though her parents’ home in a New Orleans suburb survived, her grandparents and many friends lost their homes. She searched online for “Katrina scholarships” and found Franklin Pierce.
Less than two weeks after the storm, she arrived in New Hampshire. Though she had never been to New England, she said the people she met were not as different as she expected, and she considers her time in New Hampshire an important period in her life.
“I did get to see my first autumn, and I highly recommend that to any Texan who thinks they’ve been through fall before,” she said. “That’s a big plus.”
On the other hand, she also experienced the start of a New Hampshire winter, and remembers walking across campus when the temperature was minus 17 with the wind chill.
“I didn’t realize it could actually hurt to be outside,” said Orgeron an attorney and law clerk at the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Franklin Pierce University, a private, nonprofit liberal arts school, has 1,450 undergraduates at its campus in southwestern New Hampshire. Students interested in applying for the program must be enrolled in good standing at accredited colleges affected by the hurricane and be residents of affected counties. They can apply online or by phone.