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Included yet Excluded: The Higher Education Paradox for Resettled Refugees in the USA


Today, more than 70 million people globally are classified as displaced and another 25.4 million are classified as refugees. Among refugee populations, only 3% will access higher education (UNHCR in Tertiary education, 2020. Those left behind include the resettled refugee population in the USA, who are simultaneously included and excluded from higher education (AACRAO in Supporting Syrian refugee access to US higher education, 2016.–higher-education). This paper argues that while many higher education institution (HEI) initiatives do address this issue, a lack of awareness and absence of a standardized protocol itemizing the specific needs of this population further excludes them from accessing and succeeding in higher education. This paper first outlines the specific needs of resettled refugee students and the barriers they face trying to access higher education. Second, it examines how HEIs in the USA have worked to promote the access, inclusion, and success in higher education of refugee students who have already been resettled in the USA. Third, it provides policy recommendations for additional support mechanisms that should be considered for students from refugee backgrounds. The findings, conceptualized within a capabilities and social justice perspective, indicate that initiatives established by HEIs with external partners have the potential to provide access channels for resettled refugees to enter tertiary education.

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Correspondence to Bernhard Streitwieser.

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Streitwieser, B., Duffy Jaeger, K. & Roche, J. Included yet Excluded: The Higher Education Paradox for Resettled Refugees in the USA. High Educ Policy 33, 203–221 (2020).

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  • refugees
  • higher education
  • refugee policy
  • college
  • university