Texas college rejects Nigerian applicants, cites Ebola cases

A member a HazMat team disinfects the entrance to the home of the Texas nurse who contracted Ebola from a patient.
Reuters
A member a HazMat team disinfects the entrance to the home of the Texas nurse who contracted Ebola from a patient.

At least two students from Nigeria who applied to a Texas college were told they wouldn't be admitted because of Ebola.

Kamorudeen Abidogun, a Texas man originally from Nigeria, said he received two rejection letters from Navarro College, a two-year community school 60 miles from Dallas, where a Liberian man died and two health aides are being treated for the disease. Abidogun told CNBC on Tuesday the rejection letters were addressed to two of five of his relatives in Nigeria who applied to the school and were using his Richmond home as a mailing address.

"I received, last weekend, two rejection letters ... saying the reason why they were not giving admission was ... Ebola," said Abidogun, a mechanical engineer. He said he was "disappointed" by the school's explanation.

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A copy of the letter he provided to CNBC carries the signature of Navarro College's international programs director, Elizabeth Pillans.

The letter begins: "With sincere regret, I must report that Navarro College is not able to offer you acceptance for the Spring 2015 term. Unfortunately, Navarro College is not accepting international students from countries with confirmed Ebola cases."

Idris Bello, a Nigerian who lives in East Texas, tweeted a photo of the letter to bring attention to the situation. Bello, in an interview with CNBC, called the college's purported policy "embarrassing."

In his tweet, Bello noted the irony of the school apparently having such a policy for foreign students given its proximity to Dallas, where Thomas Eric Duncan of Liberia died of the disease on Oct. 8.

After repeated requests for comments, Navarro's vice president for Access and Accountability, Dewayne Gragg, sent an email to CNBC.com.

"Our college values its diverse population of international students. This fall we have almost 100 students from Africa. Unfortunately, some students received incorrect information regarding their applications to the institution," Gragg wrote.

"As part of our new honor's program, the college restructured the international department to include focused recruitment from certain countries each year. Our focus for 2014-15 is on China and Indonesia. Other countries will be identified and recruitment efforts put in place once we launch our new honors program fall 2015. We apologize for any misinformation that may have been shared with students. Additional information regarding our progress with this new initiative will be posted on our website," he continued.

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When asked for further clarification, and to answer whether there in fact is or had been a policy to reject students based on the presence of Ebola in their countries, Gragg said in an email, "The prior email speaks for the college."

There have been no new reported cases of Ebola in Nigeria since Sept. 8. Eight of 20 people reported infected as a result of an Liberian man traveling with the virus there have died. But the virus was contained in the port city of Lagos.

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Abidogun said his five relatives who have applied to Navarro College live in Ibadan, about 80 miles from Lagos.

Navarro College talks about the Ebola virus on the section of its website devoted to admissions information for international students, but it does not mention any policy to not admit people from countries with cases of Ebola.