Elliott School organization and CCAS, SEAS students lend voices in effort to make higher education more accessible for refugees.
No Lost Generation GWU, an Elliott School of International Affairs organization advocating for refugees, helped launch The Response Campaign: College and University Sponsorship of Refugee Students, and two George Washington University students were involved in releasing a new report outlining a path and recommendations for the United States to develop, implement and sustain a university sponsorship program for refugees.
Senior CCAS student Olivia Issa co-authored the report, while senior SEAS student Diing Manyang provided significant input. Other involved partners included the UN Refugee Agency, the International Rescue Committee, Duolingo, Columbia University, Open Society Foundations, the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration and the Global Taskforce on Third Country Education Pathways.
On Dec. 2, the Presidents’ Alliance held a briefing highlighting the 60-page report on ways U.S. higher education institutions can help expand pathways for refugee students to study, settle and obtain legal permanent residence in the United States.
According to data in the report, less than 1% or refugees worldwide are resettled each year, and while 39% of those students are eligible to pursue higher education, only 5% eventually access it.
University sponsorship programs would allow refugee students to enter the United States under a newly established private sponsorship category (P-4) of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and study at a sponsoring college or university.
“The overarching goal of the report, and the campaign we’re launching is to dramatically increase refugee student access to U.S. higher education,” said Miriam Feldblum, executive director of the Presidents' Alliance.
Ms. Manyang was part of the student Q & A session during the briefing, as Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Eric Hoover moderated the conversation. Asked about her journey to GW, Ms. Manyang explained that she came to the United States through the F-1 student visa. It was a bit of a challenge as she had to travel back to South Sudan to obtain a passport, but she knew it wasn’t an opportunity she could pass up and hopes other students have opportunities to pursue what she has been able to at GW.
She is supportive of university sponsorship program partnering with refugee led organizations that provide pathways into the United States to “expose the incredible hidden talents that are found in the refugee camp.”
“It will be giving hope to the refugees that want to pursue higher education,” Ms. Manyan told the virtual crowd.
In the report itself, Ms. Issa, a U.S.-born senior studying political science and Arabic at GW, spoke on the importance of mental health and advocated U.S. universities to create access to the built-in support that is already there, suggesting they are made explicitly aware during orientation periods.
The Refugee Educational Advancement Lab (REAL) of GW’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development (GSEHD) recently launched as a resource aiming to research and document issues related to the challenges surrounding refugees and at-risk migrants pursuing an education at all levels. The REAL team consists of a faculty adviser from GSEHD and students from GSEHD, the Elliott School and CCAS.
“Such a vital part of having resources is knowing about them,” Ms. Issa wrote. "It’s one thing to have access to resources. It’s another to know how to access them.”
GW was also the first collegiate chapter to support the global No Lost Generation Initiative, which began in September 2015.
At the Presidents’ Alliance briefing, Gillian Triggs, assistant high commissioner for protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, gave her stamp of approval to all those who have worked on The Response Campaign.
“The greatest gift you can give a young refugee is access to education,” Dr. Triggs said. “Talent is universal. An opportunity to use that talent is not. We really do applaud the initiative.”
Since the inaugural strategy meeting in May 2021, more than 100 individuals from over 60 organizations have worked on the report’s policy and program recommendations, and GW students and organizations have lent their voices to the discussions.