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`Katrina orphans' at UO will go home.

Byline: Lewis Taylor The Register-Guard

The University of Oregon will be down a couple dozen students when classes resume Jan. 9.

The reason: Only about a third of the 30 or so students who transferred to the UO after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina will be sticking around for winter term, said Martha Pitts, director of admissions.

"We really have been encouraging students who are attending the university because of Katrina to return to their home institutions," Pitts said. "(When) we admitted them in the first place, our assumption was that they would be returning to their home schools."

The UO, along with other universities across the country, extended open arms to students displaced by Katrina after the Category 4 storm made landfall and flooded most of New Orleans in late August. UO administrators and faculty helped find housing, textbooks and groceries for last-minute transfer students from Tulane University, the University of New Orleans, Loyola University and other schools.

"When I got here everyone was super sympathetic," said Adam Koob, 24, a general studies major at the University of New Orleans. "But I'm pretty anxious to get home. I'm kind of a New Orleans person."

The University of New Orleans resumed online studies and classes at satellite locations just six weeks after Hurricane Katrina, but most other New Orleans universities closed for the fall semester. The University of New Orleans, Tulane and Loyola all plan to reopen their main campuses in January.

For Koob, who will graduate this spring, the decision to return to New Orleans was easy, but deciding whether to stay or go was not so simple for Catherine Freshley. A freshman from Portland who won a merit scholarship to Tulane, Freshley spent one day on campus in August before Katrina forced her to return home. She enrolled at the UO, and completed a term's worth of classes.

When it came time to decide whether to return to Tulane, Freshley's mother expressed some concerns about her safety in a city still far from being completely rebuilt. If Freshley didn't go back to New Orleans, however, she would forfeit her scholarship. After deliberating with her family, she decided shortly before the deadline to re-enroll at Tulane.

"I'm excited to go do what I was trying to do in the first place," Freshley said. "There's nothing not to like about the U of O, but that's just not what I was looking for. I was looking for a new experience that would challenge me."

Like most universities in and around New Orleans, Tulane is facing some big changes. The school has laid off staff, trimmed athletic departments and eliminated several academic departments. Remarkably, 86 percent of the student body is returning in January, according to a letter posted by the school's president on the university's Web site.

The housing shortage at Tulane is so severe that some Tulane students will be living on cruise ships. Freshley will live in the same dormitory with the same roommate as she was originally assigned. She begins freshman orientation Jan. 11.

Freshley hopes to volunteer her time to help repair the city. The same goes for Paul Tassin, a UO law school student and New Orleans native who transferred from Loyola. During his winter break, he plans to work with a nonprofit organization helping homeowners who have lost the deeds to their homes.

But Tassin plans to finish the school year at the UO. He still doesn't know whether he'll transfer back to Loyola or go on to another school after that.

"All of the people I've encountered (in Eugene) have been really, really hospitable," Tassin said. "It's certainly a great place to go to school."

But there are still plenty of loose ends for such "Katrina orphans" - the term Tassin uses in describing himself and others facing his lot.

Tassin, for example, has no idea whether he'll be paying tuition at Loyola or the UO; Koob doesn't know whether he will receive full transfer credit for the work he's done at the UO, which is on the quarter system. The University of New Orleans is on a semester system.

The confusion is evident on the affected universities' Web sites, which are filled with pages of frequently asked questions, construction updates and campus renewal plans. The Loyola site offers tips on "Post Katrina Safety" and the University of New Orleans' site provides suggestions on how students can help the university request on-campus classroom trailers.

Pitts said the legacy of the nationwide effort to place Katrina-affected college students extends not just to what universities were able to do but also to what the students were able to accomplish.

"I think the students have responded really well to what we've been able to provide for them," she said. "They've really been appreciative and have worked hard and have really made some sacrifices to continue their education."
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Title Annotation:Higher Education; Decision to return isn't easy for some who came here from New Orleans
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 19, 2005
Words:810
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