Mount Holyoke, Smith, increasing student aid to Puerto Rico

  • Smashed poles and snarled power lines brought down by Hurricane Maria, in Humacao, Puerto Rico. ap file photo

For the Recorder
Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges are extending scholarship aid to students from Puerto Rico in recognition of the devastating effects that Hurricane Maria has had on the island.

Mount Holyoke will offer two full, four-year scholarships to first-year students and two $25,000 scholarships to students transferring from the University of Puerto Rico.

Smith is offering to cover tuition, room and board for the spring 2018 semester for University of Puerto Rico students displaced by the hurricane.

“Mount Holyoke has educated women from all over the world,” said Gail Berson, the college’s vice president for enrollment and dean of admissions. “It (Puerto Rico) represents part of the United States we have always been committed to.”

Berson noted that the college has a number of alumnae from Puerto Rico.

Two of the scholarships will be awarded to new first-year students from Puerto Rico, and will cover four years of tuition, which the college says is close to a $200,000 value.

Two other scholarships will be given to students transferring from the University of Puerto Rico due to storm-related circumstances. Each of these scholarships will be $25,000 a year, and can be renewed up to two times under normal circumstances.

A student who applies to Mount Holyoke and qualifies for either of the scholarships will be automatically placed in the running for them.

In addition to tuition, room and board, Smith College’s new visiting student program will provide a stipend to cover books, personal expenses and travel costs.

“Our goal is to allow these students to continue their studies at an outstanding liberal arts college with a welcoming, supportive community,” said Audrey Smith, the college’s vice president for enrollment.

The application deadline is Wednesday, Dec. 6.

Berson said that one of the reasons why Mount Holyoke has chosen to offer the scholarships is because it was unable to send admissions counselors there this year, due to the effects of Hurricane Maria.

“The destruction was so widespread and the devastation so significant,” said Berson, who said counselors would get in the way if they were sent now.

Mount Holyoke sent counselors to more than 30 states and 26 countries this year.

Berson said that offering these scholarships is a way of showing the college’s commitment to the island, even with this circumstance. She also said she hopes that those who receive them will be able to use their Mount Holyoke educations to give back to the island in the coming years.

While the application deadline for the college is Jan. 15, Berson said those whose lives have been disrupted by Hurricane Maria, as well as the other hurricanes that have hit the United States and the wildfires in California, can contact the college for an extension.

Berson said the money comes from the nearly $50 million that Mount Holyoke awards each year in scholarships.