The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education unanimously approved extending in-state tuition rates to displaced students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The move will allow students who have evacuated to Massachusetts from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to qualify for the in-state tuition rate through the Spring 2018 semester.

To qualify, students must prove they had residency in Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands and were displaced by Hurricane Maria, have a completed federal financial aid form and have proof of citizenship or lawful immigration status.

Although students will be eligible for in-state tuition, they will not be eligible for state financial assistance and they will have to pay fees.

Commissioner Carlos Santiago said discounted rates will apply to students affected by Hurricane Maria who are trying to continue their coursework at any of the state’s public universities.

"Many of the institutions, the higher education institutions, in Puerto Rico, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands, were closed for a significant period of time," he said. "So a student would have had to wait and may have lost a semester as well. So, this is a way to make it a little more affordable for those students."

Although a student enrolling in-state from Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands should constitute a net revenue for the state or campus, Santiago said he was not yet sure how much accepting the students would cost the state.

"For our community colleges and state universities, there is a cost," he said. "We're still evaluating how much that might be since we don't have exact numbers on the numbers of students. Right now, we don't have any firm numbers, but we know the Commonwealth is making a sacrifice."

An extension of the in-state tuition rate may be considered at a later date.