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Tuesday, September 6, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Students heading for new colleges

Seattle Times staff reporter

Edmond Horton is making his way back home to Seattle, two weeks after he left to begin his senior year at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans.

He plans to enroll at Seattle University, where he hopes he can finish course work toward a degree in business administration — the city and school he cherished for three years now a sad memory.

"I decided I'm not gonna try to go back," Horton said by cellphone as he and his father drove through Texas toward Arizona yesterday.

"I can't keep evacuating for hurricanes. I need to finish college."

An unknown number of students from the Seattle area who were enrolled in institutions such as Xavier, Tulane University and Loyola of New Orleans in the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast region are also returning home.

Washington colleges and universities are opening their doors to these students as well as those from other states whose college quarters or semesters have been cut short or delayed by the disaster.

Some area institutions that had already closed enrollment for the fall semester are opening it up on an emergency basis to accommodate the students.

The University of Washington is prepared to take between 50 and 100 affected students — mostly from Tulane. Tuition those students would normally pay to their universities will continue to be directed there, UW President Mark Emmert said.

And on its Web site, Seattle University said it had received 50 inquiries from students and had already enrolled 41 of them for the fall quarter, which begins Sept. 21.

Additionally, Washington State University, Seattle Pacific University, Central Washington University in Ellensburg, and Pacific Lutheran University and the University of Puget Sound, both in Tacoma, are offering to accommodate unspecified numbers of displaced students.

"We're enormously sympathetic to the challenges they face down there," said Emmert, who is former chancellor of Louisiana State University, with strong ties to the Gulf Coast region.

The UW, along with other institutions, also has offered to help major research libraries in the hurricane region restore their library systems.

"These libraries will be sitting in empty, wet buildings without air conditioning for extended periods," Emmert said. "Their holdings would be in terrible shape. We may be able to share materials — hard copy or electronic materials — and provide them with technical support as they try to restore their information systems."

Emmert said that in addition to undergraduates, the UW is reaching out to students enrolled in law and medical schools in the Gulf states, recognizing the toll a lost semester or a missed year could have.

He said he recognizes the special challenges associated with transferring to a new school and finding a program match for seniors who had hoped to graduate at the end of the academic year. But he said such difficulties are a slight inconvenience in light of the magnitude of the problems facing the Gulf Coast.

Mercer Island resident Courtney Packard, who was to be a sophomore at Tulane this year, plans to begin taking classes in Seattle if she can, while waiting to see when she can return to New Orleans.

Horton, an O'Dea High School graduate whose parents live on Beacon Hill, said he won't even bother trying to go back.

When he and his roommates evacuated in advance of Hurricane Katrina last week and headed west toward Houston, he expected they'd be returning to classes after a few days.

"We never dreamed it would be this bad," he said. "We thought we'd be back in school after a week."

Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or lturnbull@seattletimes.com

Seattle Times staff reporter Christina Siderius contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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