Virginia Tech has joined close to 150 other colleges and universities across the United States to provide on line courses free of charge to students from Gulf Coast colleges and universities displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

In collaboration with the Southern Regional Education Board and with a $1.1 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Sloan Consortium—a group of institutions and organizations committed to delivering quality online education—has organized a special eight-week accelerated semester which will allow students whose studies have been interrupted by Hurricane Katrina an opportunity to continue their education tuition-free.

Virginia Tech faculty have offered to provide 45 online courses through the “Sloan Semester” project. Participating institutions were asked to provide no more than 15 courses, though more courses may be added in the future to meet outstanding student course needs.

“The fact that our faculty offered to teach 45 courses shows how much they want to help these students,” said Tom Wilkinson, director of the Institute for Distance and Distributed Learning, which coordinates Virginia Tech’s participation in the Sloan Consortium. “In addition to lives lost and property destroyed, an estimated 175,000 students will be displaced this semester due to this disaster. Online courses will allow them to continue their education no matter where they are currently living.”

Students can register for courses at, with classes set to begin on or before Oct. 10.

The eight-week semester will provide a wide range of courses to serve the learning needs of students at the community college, undergraduate, and graduate level, regardless of academic discipline. The Sloan Foundation provides participating institutions with stipends based on the number of courses the institution offers and the enrollment in those courses.

“There are now more than 1,000 courses available to students to choose from,” said Frank Mayadas, program director, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “All of the participating institutions will cover tuition and fees to the displaced students.” All courses carry degree credit from regionally accredited colleges and universities.

Of the 45 courses Virginia Tech faculty are prepared to offer, one fourth represent undergraduate courses in the areas of hospitality and tourism management, electrical and computer engineering, communication studies, health, human development, humanities, political science, and math. The graduate courses include electrical and computer engineering, curriculum and instruction, health education, and natural resources.

Virginia Tech is one of several Virginia colleges and universities offering on line courses through the Sloan Semester program. Others are Hampton University, Liberty University, Longwood University. Regent University and the Virginia Community College System.

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