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People in Puerto Rico will get in-state tuition for SUNY online classes

New York NOW

Puerto Rico residents will now pay in-state tuition when they enroll in online classes through the State University of New York Empire State College.

Starting January first of next year, prospective students living in Puerto Rico will be able to enroll in online programs to earn a certificate, bachelor's, or master's degree at SUNY Empire State. Tuition would be the same as if they lived in New York state.

Students who move from Puerto Rico after enrolling, they can still complete their program so long as there are no interruptions in their education.

“There's a significant migratory aspect to Puerto Ricans living in New York and living in Puerto Rico and looking to maintain their connection to the island and to New York,” said SUNY Empire College president Lisa Vollendorf.

Thousands of people moved to Rochester from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and other natural disasters devastated the island, which is also known as the Isla Del Encanto or the “Island of Enchantment.” Many still have family in Puerto Rico.

For Vollendorf, this initiative speaks to the college’s responsibility as the state’s only public online higher education institution.

“I felt that we had a real opportunity to stand in solidarity with Puerto Ricans, whether they live in New York or in Puerto Rico, and to help raise educational attainment for Puerto Ricans, whether they live in our state or on the island,” she said.

The announcement comes after Vollendorf visited Puerto Rico for an event called the 2022 SOMOS conference which focused on advocacy for Latinos, particularly in New York state. The conference was held in collaboration with the New York State Assembly/Senate Puerto Rican & Hispanic Task Force.

“Over the last decade, Puerto Rico has experienced a consistent poverty rate of over 40%, an average unemployment rate over 1%, the lowest median household income of any US state or territory,” Assemblymember Maritza Davila, the task force’s chair, said in a statement.

“New York and Puerto Rico have always had a special bond and this plan will only further enhance the great relationship we have with the island of Puerto Rico,” she said. “A qualified and educated workforce is in the best interest and will benefit both New York State and Puerto Rico.”

Copyright 2022 WXXI News. To see more, visit WXXI News.

Noelle E. C. Evans is a general assignment reporter/producer for WXXI News with a background in documentary filmmaking and education.