Katrina's Academic Victims

Flood waters from Katrina surround Tulane University.
This story was written by CBSNews.com intern Jaclyn Schiff.

When Tulane University senior Brett Hyman returned to the New Orleans campus, he couldn't wait to dive into the fall semester and soak up the last year of his of his college experience in the Big Easy.

But he never made it to a single class.

"Not a thought crossed my mind that lead me to believe this year would be any less than the best year of my college experience," Hyman told CBSNews.com.

When Hyman and a few friends left New Orleans for Texas right before Hurricane Katrina hit, they had been back on campus for less than a week. Until recently, they were unsure exactly when — or if — they would ever return.

But just one month after Katrina, Tulane, the region's largest academic institution, announced that the spring semester would begin as originally scheduled on Jan. 17, 2006. Hyman expects to be there.

Academia in New Orleans has already started showing signs of life: The University of New Orleans became the first university in the area to conduct fall semester classes when it reopened officially on Oct. 10. According to the university, almost 7,000 of the school's more than 13,000 students had registered for at least one class at the time of reopening.

The area's private universities are aiming for January. They announced earlier this month they would work together to make that happen.

For students, however, January seems a long way off.

Thousands of students have had to deal with the unique challenge of how to navigate their way through the semester while their colleges were forced to cancel classes.

Universities from around the country offered these "academic refugees" admission for the semester. Many students did just that, often enrolling at institutions in or near their hometowns.

Hyman decided to take classes at the University of Southern California. He uses some of his spare time to update the Tulane Student Blog, the Web log he started out of a hotel room in Houston. Hyman combined and filtered information from different sources to connect Tulane students and offer support just days after Katrina struck.

While Hyman said he was "extremely disappointed" about losing a semester of his senior year at Tulane, he describes himself as optimistic and sought to use the blog to help students view the situation positively.

He is also getting hands-on experience with his finance major as he looks into expanding Category 5 Entertainment, the company he started his freshman year.