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Columbia U: new displaced person scholarship

The world’s first university-wide scholarship for refugees and asylum seekers has been launched by Columbia University in New York.  The Scholarship for Displaced Students will provide $6 million worth of support for up to 30 students annually to receive tuition, housing and living assistance. 

Columbia Business School, Uris Hall. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Ajay Suresh

The program is open to foreign national students from anywhere in the world

Administered by the Columbia Global Centers, the program will offer undergraduate and graduate degrees across all 18 Columbia schools and affiliate institutions.

“The program sends a powerful message”

“We are very proud of the Columbia Scholarship for Displaced Students,” said university president Lee C. Bollinger

“The program sends a powerful message about the role that colleges and universities should be playing to help young people whose educations have been disrupted because they have been forced to flee violence and persecution in their home countries.”

The scholarship began as an initiative to help Syrian refugees at The Tamer Center for Social Enterprise at Columbia Business School. 

Founded by professor Bruce Usher, it was initially adopted by Columbia’s School of General Studies, The Business School and the School of International and Public Affairs and Columbia College. 

The program outgrew the business school and in 2018 was taken over by Safwan Masri, executive vice president for global centres and global development. 

“Bruce identified an opportunity that aligned perfectly with Columbia’s University-wide priorities,” Masri said. 

“It’s a program that will have a real impact on the lives of talented people facing overwhelming obstacles by helping them gain access to one of the world’s great institutions of higher education.”

Sumar Frejat, an Iraqi-Syrian national who was one of the first scholarship recipients, said the expansion of the program would change people’s lives. 

“It was like a dream, getting my acceptance letter… My focus, my energy, everything changed,” he said. 

Frejat, who is studying neuroscience and behaviour at Columbia’s School of General Studies and plans to go to medical school, said he is thrilled that it will expand.

“The Syrian students I know through the program are very special, and I saw how this opportunity changed their lives.

“There are more special students out there that deserve the same chance,” he added.

The program is open to foreign national students from anywhere in the world. Students must be either internally or externally displaced with refugee status, or have either received asylum or submitted an application for asylum in the US. 

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