This idea has cropped up in a couple of variant forms in various places–Glenn Reynolds notes that the University of Tennessee has already taken 50 law students from Tulane and Loyola— but it’ll take quick action to systematically reproduce that kind of assistance . Academics are asking what Tulane, Xavier and Loyola intend to do next–the Tulane website has been compelling reading since Katrina hit. (Xavier and Loyola’s websites appear to have been taken out by the crisis, from what I can see tonight.)
Why not get a huge network of colleges and universities together, proportionately distribute the student bodies of all these institutions across the network, offer automatic transfer admissions to your size-adjusted and randomly designated proportion of that student population, with the New Orleans institutions agreeing to honor all credits taken at the host institution as if they were taken at Tulane, Xavier or Loyola. Treat the tuition paid to the New Orleans schools as if it were paid to your institution but allow Tulane, Xavier and Loyola to keep the tuition so they can make their bills for the academic year. (E.g., the host institutions would accept the transfer students as a freebie). Pay transport costs for the affected students and waive the cost of their room and board for the year as well. If there’s any desire to do it, just do it quickly and without quibbles and carping, as a way to help those institutions keep themselves intact and financially sound as institutions, considering that it’s likely to be at least a year before they can operate on any basis roughly comparable to what they were doing before Katrina hit. For senior undergraduates who were beginning culminating projects or research, or graduate students, try to work out some kind of ongoing distance connection to their faculty supervisors, and maybe even have the host pay to bring the faculty supervisors to visit their advisees for a week in the spring.