As New Orleans continues to recover from Hurricane Katrina, there are some signs of normalcy. Tulane, a nationally known university, and other area colleges, have repaired their campuses, and most of the students and faculty have returned. Most, but not all.
Tulane University in New Orleans was home to roughly 10,000 students and faculty until Hurricane Katrina hit. When the levees broke, the once-beautiful campus was left under several meters of water.
Beginning Tuesday, classes start again. Nearly 90 percent of Tulane's student body has returned, including Courtney Coffey.
"I just had faith that they were going to take the school and re-build it and get back on its feet as soon as possible."
Some students' parents found the sight of the bustling campus a moving one. "I thought I was going to just cry my eyes out but it's fine,” said one mom. “I'm really glad it's [Tulane's] back on its feet."
The reconstruction comes at a heavy price. Despite a $800-million endowment, Tulane cut 200 faculty and a number of staff. Tulane's President Scott Cowen said, "It is true we made a lot of difficult decisions and we're sorry that it negatively affected anyone's lives. But we felt we had to take control of our own destiny and that's what we did."
Another way Mr. Cowen feels they can control their own destiny is by adding a new requirement for freshmen -- community service.
Tulane Freshman Jennifer Goltche agrees. "It's sort of incumbent on me that I should be doing that I should come back and help start the city again. We just can't abandon it you know."
Yet some former students at New Orleans universities have done just that, choosing instead to attend schools in other parts of the United States.
There's a lot more work to be done around the town popularly nicknamed "The Big Easy". And with damages of almost $1 billion for college campuses alone, some are wondering -- how many of the returning students will want to stay?