Officials of the U.S. Education Department promised that they would not let bureaucracy get in the way as students in the areas ravaged by Hurricane Katrina seek to continue their higher education and colleges in and around the area try to help students do so.
"The red tape will be put in the drawer," Raymond Simon, deputy secretary of education, said in a news conference Wednesday evening.
Simon and other department officials spoke after leaving a meeting at the White House in which President Bush described the federal government's response to what was being described as the worst natural disaster to hit the United States in decades.
Most of the Education Department's efforts focused on dealing with the thousands of elementary and secondary school students who have had to flee the affected areas or whose schools have been destroyed.
But Simon said that the department would allow borrowers with student loans who've been affected by the hurricane to extend repayment without penalty, and grant waivers to affected colleges in terms of meeting reporting and other requirements related to their awarding of federal financial aid.
David Bergeron, another official, said the department would work closely with colleges and lenders to ensure that students who seek to transfer to another institution from a college that has been shuttered will have their financial aid follow them.
"We will work with those institutions to make sure that our rules don't get in their way of admitting students, giving them the kind of financial aid they need," Bergeron said. "I know there are some students who may have received aid for an institution where they were going to go. We will work with the funding agencies, private lenders, etc., to make sure those monies get to the right students so they can continue their education this fall, wherever they decide to enroll."
Many institutions, including the University of Virginia and Texas Christian University, have offered admission to local students who had enrolled at institutions affected by the hurricane and won't be able to attend them. A spokeswoman for Texas Christian said that nearly 50 students or families contacted the institutionWednesday asking about admission.
Many other colleges have undertaken relief efforts aimed at helping students in other ways; a compendium of those efforts, prepared by ProfNet and PIONet, is available here.
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