Tulane Reopens With Question Marks

tulane university, hurricane katrina, louisiana
More than four months after Hurricane Katrina, the president of Tulane University says New Orleans finally has something to cheer about.

Most of Tulane's 6,700 undergraduates who were made refugees are returning to campus this weekend. But CBS News correspondent Trish Regan reports that some students may not stay.

Ben Mack was looking forward to his sophomore year at Tulane University last fall – but the history major had barely unpacked his belongings when he was told to evacuate.

"I took two or three t-shirts, a couple pairs of underwear, you know, the necessaries, cause I thought I would back very soon," Mack says.

Katrina made that impossible. Tulane, like all universities in the area, shut down for the semester. Students scrambled to transfer.

Mack chose Hofstra – just three miles from his family's home in Long Island, New York. That meant moving back in with mom and dad.

But next week he's back on his own in the Big Easy. Tulane resumes classes on Tuesday.

Having thousands of students back in New Orleans is something the university – and the city – welcomes.

"We will have brought back about 25,000 people to the parish," says Tulane's president Scott Cowen. "We have restaurant owners and store owners who every day thank me for us being open because they're seeing their business picking up dramatically."

Ninety-one percent of the undergraduates are returning. The question is: will they stay?

"It's not the school that I applied to or I chose to attend anymore," says Adam Nikolich, an incoming freshman at Tulane.

After Katrina sent Nikolich packing, he applied to Harvard University as a visiting student and got in.

"The community was very accepting, I really got integrated. I mean, I joined the crew team, I got to know a lot of kids there," he says

Now he doesn't want to leave. But colleges across the country made a deal with Tulane – students had to return to Tulane or take their second semester off. They cannot continue at their host universities.

"It's disappointing," says Nikolich. "But I've been given the option to apply for transfer next fall so that's what I'll do."

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com