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At Denton universities, students impacted by the storm at the forefront

While Texas Woman's University students in Denton started classes Monday, those in Houston will not be able to return until possibly sometime next week because of the effects from Tropical Storm Harvey. 

The Houston campus did not yet have reports of flooding, said Amanda Simpson, a spokeswoman for the university. Officials likely won't know more about the physical impacts until crews can access the building when flooding subsides. They plan to start school Tuesday, Sept. 5.

The school's emergency management team sent out an assessment survey to students, faculty and staff in Houston to figure out what immediate needs are. Of the estimated 1,260 students and 125 faculty and staff at the campus, more than 300 responded by Monday, Simpson said.

The survey is designed to determine what kind of damage they have and what needs they have right now that the university can help address. Most of the respondents have had damage to their homes or vehicles, Simpson said.

"Many in our Texas Woman's community have already asked how we can help our TWU Houston family," said Chancellor Carine Feyten in an email to the TWU community Sunday. "The university has collected philanthropic funds intended to be used in the case of personal emergency — one fund for students and another for employees — to assist during times of need like this. I am sure our Houston students and colleagues would appreciate any contribution you might want to make to the student fund or employee fund."

To contribute, visit https://pof.twu.edu/student-emergency to donate to students and https://pof.twu.edu/employee-emergency for employees.

So far, TWU knows of three students who were unable to make it up to Denton for the start of the semester because of the storm, Simpson said Monday.

UNT opens enrollment to those impacted by Harvey

Over the weekend as University of North Texas officials prepared for school to start Monday, they decided to open enrollment to students impacted by Harvey. Administrators thought that some students might not know when they can start college now, so some might want to come to UNT instead of waiting for their initial plans to materialize.

"Students who are impacted by the hurricane and trying to go to school are clearly going to be upset and anxious about starting their college careers," UNT President Neal Smatresk said Monday. "We simply wanted to push the easy button for them and allow them to get in without an application fee and minimum fuss, close to automatic acceptance, so they don't have to worry about the timing."

By Monday, 10 students had asked about the program, but he thinks that number could go up as people figure out their housing and family situations.

Additionally, Smatresk sent a note to the campus community Monday to stress understanding for students who may not be at campus yet, or who are under family stress because of the hurricane. Of the estimated 4,000 UNT students who have home addresses in affected areas, Smatresk isn't sure how many haven't made it to campus because of the storms.

"I would assume the majority were here last week before the storms hit, but if they weren't, I hope to hear from them and we'll take care of them on a case-by-case basis," he said.

Relief efforts are going to be integrated into the start of the semester at UNT as well, Smatresk said. At the school's first football game Saturday at Apogee Stadium, UNT will be collecting donations to bring to the American Red Cross, Smatresk said. 

"It's times like this when Texans and the higher education community pull together to make a difference," Smatresk said. 

FEATURED PHOTO: Students at Texas Woman's University walk to and from their first classes of the semester near the Arts and Sciences Building. Monday marked the first day of classes for the fall semester at both TWU and the University of North Texas.
Jake King/DRC

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889.