The Welcome Corps on Campus, part of the US Department of State private sponsorship Welcome Corps program launched in January, will offer refugee students access to life-changing opportunities to continue their education in the country.
The project is a “transformative cornerstone of our private sponsorship program that will support refugees whose opportunity to pursue higher education was cut short”, said Julieta Valls Noyes, assistant secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the Department of State.
Organisers say it will give higher education institutions the chance to “play an instrumental role” in the journey of refugee students towards long-term integration in the US.
“Education is a powerful tool for personal advancement that contributes to the strength of our country,” Valls Noyes added. “We are grateful to the American people, institutions of higher education, campus communities and our partners for opening doors for refugee students to reach their full potential.”
Some 145 institutions and specialist organisations have backed the initiative, including over 90 universities, colleges, university systems and education providers in the US.
The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration is also supporting the program, with executive director, Miriam Feldblum, saying it builds on the “US tradition to advance safety and protection for displaced people”, as well as embrace “the drive, excellence, and experiences that refugee students bring”.
“Through participation in Welcome Corps on Campus, campuses around the country will not only provide life-changing access to US higher education and durable protections for refugee students but these institutions will be enriched and transformed by these students and their perspectives,” Feldblum said.
“Sponsoring and enrolling refugee students will spur new opportunities for campuses, strengthen our communities, and enhance the national security and economic prosperity of our nation.”
The Community Sponsorship Hub, a consortium of nonprofit organisations, is implementing the program. Every Campus A Refuge, the Institute of International Education, the National Association of System Heads, and World University Service of Canada are all joining the Presidents’ Alliance in the consortium.
“Sponsoring and enrolling refugee students will spur new opportunities for campuses”
The program will create new avenues for experiential learning for “refugee students, many who have not only been waiting years for a safe place to call home but also for an opportunity to earn a higher education degree”, Annie Nolte-Henning, interim executive director of Community Sponsorship Hub, added.
Campus Private Sponsor Groups, made up of students, faculty and staff, will provide academic, financial, and resettlement assistance for arriving refugee students under the program. Plans for sustainable support will also be developed.
Every Campus A Refuge, founded in 2015 and recently launched its 14th chapter nationwide at James Madison University in Virginia, said the initiative is “a step in the right direction” towards higher education playing its “significant role” in refugee welcome, protection and integration.
“From the refugees who experience a stronger beginning in their new home, to the campus community who is transformed by the power of the connections made, to the local community who benefits immensely from the contributions of its newest Americans, Welcome Corps on Campus will be a win-win for all involved,” said Diya Abdo, founder and director of Every Campus A Refuge.
Allan Goodman, chief executive officer of IIE, noted that the US has the “capacity that no other country has”.
“Widening access to higher education for refugees… may be the best way we have to avoid a lost generation and make the world we share a less dangerous place,” he said.