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It’s the latest way the Bay State has assisted the U.S. territories in the wake of the destruction brought by hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Among the states that mobilized resources to help Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands recover in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria, Massachusetts has continued to step up its assistance. The Massachusetts Board of Education unanimously voted on Tuesday to allow students from the U.S. territories living in the Bay State to pay lower in-state tuition.
The tuition break applies for the University of Massachusetts system, state universities and community colleges through the 2018 spring semester.
The in-state rate savings can be substantial. An evacuee enrolling at Holyoke Community College, where the board says about 50 individuals displaced by the hurricane have already enrolled for the spring semester, would pay $4,272 a year instead of an out-of-state tuition rate of $9,216.
Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló, was meeting with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh when they got word of the Board of Education’s vote.
"Our administration is working collaboratively to provide critical resources and opportunities for our fellow Americans from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands during this difficult time, and I am pleased the board approved this important opportunity to provide in-state tuition to make education more affordable for these students,” Baker said in a statement.
"There will be a time where we will call back upon those that have left when we will reach normalcy and we can start rebuilding, but in the meantime, giving that to the students of Puerto Rico is a great blessing," Rosselló said, according to NECN.
While in the Boston area, Puerto Rico’s governor met with students from his alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, encouraging them to think about ways to help Puerto Rico rebuild.
Since Hurricane Maria, Massachusetts schools have taken in 1,800 K-12 students from Puerto Rico, according to the governor.
In Florida, school districts have brought in 8,500 students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands since Irma and Maria, Bloomberg Markets reported.
Like Florida, New York and New Jersey, Massachusetts has historically been home to a large Puerto Rican population. Soon after Hurricane Maria brought widespread destruction to the island commonwealth, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and the Boston Foundation announced the formation of the Massachusetts United for Puerto Rico Fund, a partnership with the Latino Legacy Fund and civic leaders in Boston’s Puerto Rican community dedicated to relief and reconstruction work.
Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham Health, Spaulding Rehabilitations Network, Partners Healthcare, Steward Healthcare System LLC and the Eos Foundation are among the local partners involved in that cross-sector fundraising effort.
Puerto Rico continues to face an especially difficult recovery, with much of the island’s power-delivery and water infrastructure damaged, disabled or destroyed by the storm. The final death toll is expected to be far greater than the current official number of 64.
Elected officials in states with large Puerto Rican communities have been some of the most vocal advocates for the island since Maria. Some, like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, have been highly critical of the federal government’s response to the disaster and have called for on Congress and the Trump administration to commit more resources to Puerto Rico’s recovery.
“The situation in Puerto Rico is devastating and the way it has been handled is an embarrassment for this nation,” Cuomo said earlier this month when Rossello visited New York City.
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.