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A Virginia university offers free semester to students in Bahamas displaced by hurricane

More than 800 miles separate the University of the Bahamas and Hampton University in Virginia. But some students at the former, whose North campus was devastated by Hurricane Dorian, will be able to continue their education at no cost at the latter for a semester.

The offer by Hampton came about because of a special connection between the two universities.

After the deadly storm hit the Bahamas this week, William Harvey, the president of Hampton, called to check on his friend Rodney Smith, a former chief administrator at Hampton and now president of the University of the Bahamas. Smith assured Harvey that he and his family were fine, but that the university’s North campus was “devastated.”

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The next morning, Harvey said, he called back and offered to provide students from the North campus with free room, board, and tuition for the current semester.

Hampton University, a historically black institution in Hampton, Va., announced the agreement on Thursday. Within one day, Harvey said, 22 students had expressed interest. The students who participate will have the option to stay on afterward, but at the regular costs.

“I think this agreement is something that can be helpful to a great number of students and families, and is part of something I’ve tried to do my entire career — helping people to achieve and meet their goals,” Harvey said in the statement.

It is unclear how many students from the Bahamas will attend Hampton University, which already has more than 4,300 students enrolled this fall. But Hampton has prepared the space and the funds, Harvey said.

According to Hampton University’s website, total tuition costs and room and board fees add up to more than $20,000 per semester.

The University of the Bahamas, which has several campuses and satellite locations throughout the Bahamian archipelago, including on the hardest-hit islands Grand Bahama and Abaco, was forced to close for more than a week because of the hurricane. The university did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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In letters to the University of the Bahamas community about the destruction of the North campus, which is on Grand Bahama, Smith said that one administrative building was gutted and another was compromised.

“We will all unite and we will rebuild,” he said.

Meanwhile, skies cleared and floodwaters receded Saturday from North Carolina’s Outer Banks, leaving behind a muddy trail of destruction wrought by Hurricane Dorian, which turned north and began lashing parts of eastern Canada.

Dorian’s worst damage in the United States appeared to be on Ocracoke Island, which even in good weather is accessible only by boat or air and is popular with tourists for its undeveloped beaches. Longtime residents who hunkered down to wait out the storm described strong but manageable winds followed by a wall of water that flooded many homes and forced some to await rescue from their attics.

As it approached Canada, Dorian briefly strengthened to a Category 2 storm before weakening to a strong Category 1 storm with winds of 93 mph on Saturday afternoon, Canadian officials said.


Material from the Associated Press is included in this report.