Law schools welcome displaced Puerto Rican students

Florida State University College of Law and four other U.S. law schools are preparing to take on roughly 35 law students from the University of Puerto Rico, which has been shuttered since Hurricane Maria struck the island. The move allows them to complete coursework for the fall semester.

Following reports of destruction caused by one of the most powerful hurricanes on record to hit U.S. terrority, FSU Law Dean Erin O’Connor reached out to her counterpart, Vivian Neptune Rivera, at the University of Puerto Rico to invite their students to finish the semester at Florida State University, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

The University of Puerto Rico is expected to remain closed for the foreseeable future. 

“I let her know we would be willing to take some of their upper-level students,” O’Connor told the Tallahassee Democrat. “I let her know we were one of the few law schools in the country where the students would be able to catch up by the end of the semester.”


Five law schools will welcome nearly 35 Puerto Rico law students this fall.


The early responses were overwhelming, O’Connor said. Roughly 10 upper-level law students are expected to continue their studies at Florida State University. The Florida State campus was also closed for 10 days due to Hurricane Irma, and faculty plan to teach shorter versions of courses so that students can still receive credit.

Tuition and fees for the fall semester will be waived for the visiting students, as they have already paid tuition at University of Puerto Rico. O’Connor is also seeking housing for the displaced students, calling on alumni to provide housing or rent assistance.

Four more law schools have agreed to bring in small groups of students from Puerto Rico. Roughly 35 Puerto Rico law students are expected to complete the semester at Florida State, University at Buffalo Law School, Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, University of Missouri School of Law and University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

“[The University of Puerto Rico] decided to work with a handful of schools so their students could go in groups and to make sure we had a plan the ABA would sign off on,” O’Connor told the Daily Business Review. “They went with the schools that seemed to be offering the most, in terms of being willing to modify the curriculum, provide mentoring, housing, and taking care of some of the other needs.”

The plan was approved by the American Bar Association, and students will receive partial credit for courses they enroll in, O’Connor said.

The University of Puerto Rico School of Law was founded in 1913 and received ABA accreditation in 1945. Nearly 700 students enrolled at the University of Puerto Rico’s law school last academic year, according to ABA data. 

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