As floodwaters rose around the city, Robert Pennington evacuated his third-floor room in the University of Houston’s Bayou Oaks dorm, grabbing food, water, his laptop, contact lenses and school supplies as he left. He recalled stepping away from the building, one of few at UH that saw flooding, into a knee-high current as he hoisted his duffel bag and backpack to a bus.

But the evacuation was just the beginning of Harvey’s impact on Pennington – and potentially hundreds of thousands of other Texas college students starting the semester.

Pennington, a 21-year-old UH senior studying computer information systems, said he couldn’t drive to his information technology internship in the Energy Corridor last week, forcing him to dip into his savings to make a tuition payment.

“A hurricane’s going to hurt financially, and it’s going to set people back,” he said, adding that his peers at UH are resilient. “I just have to play it conservative until winter break, when I can work full time again.”

College classes have resumed on many campuses after Harvey, but universities around the area now must grapple with murkier challenges, including how to manage and support a student body with new financial and psychological needs.

(Next page: Harvey’s unprecedented impact and the days after)

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