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University Sponsorship of Refugee Students: Initiative on Increasing U.S. Education Pathways for Refugee Students

The need for collective action to support refugee students could not be greater. Forced displacement has doubled in the past decade, and among the displaced are thousands of university-aged youth dreaming about continuing their education. While 39 percent of students are able to access higher education worldwide, only 5 percent of refugee students access higher education. There are a multitude of barriers facing refugee students seeking to pursue their studies and find safety.  

In response to this need, the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration (Presidents’ Alliance), with a coalition of partners, hosted an inaugural strategy meeting in May 2021 on how to significantly increase refugee student entry into the U.S. to pursue higher education. The meeting marked the launch of an initiative to mobilize higher education leadership to advocate for, design, and engage in a university sponsorship program that would allow refugee students to enter the United States under a newly established P-4 category for private sponsorship of refugees to continue their studies at a sponsoring U.S. college or university. The Initiative was led by the Presidents’ Alliance, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the Global Task Force on Third Country Education Pathways, and the University Alliance for Refugees and at-Risk Migrants along with its Student Voices for Refugees network. 

The meeting launched a four-month process, bringing together current and former refugee students, leaders of refugee resettlement, higher education institutions, philanthropic organizations, and experts in advocacy, international education, student support, and student admissions, in five working groups to develop a robust policy framework, program model, educational outreach, and funding strategies. Representatives from approximately sixty organizations and institutions were engaged in the Initiative, developing a report, University Sponsorship of Refugee Students: Initiative on Increasing U.S. Education Pathways for Refugee Students, outlining a path for the U.S. to develop and implement a university sponsorship program for refugee students. 

You can download the full report here.

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