PRESS RELEASE: Jesuit Refugee Service/USA Releases Policy Brief on Refugee Higher Education

18 April 2022

Today, only 5 percent of refugee students around the world have access to post-secondary educational opportunities, severely limiting their ability to seek employment. This reality causes hopelessness and incentivizes further migration. However, investments in post-secondary education can provide stability and security in host communities where refugees can contribute to the local economy.

In light of this, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA has released a policy brief entitled: A Path Forward: Building a Future for Refugee Students Through Post-Secondary Education. This policy brief includes the stories of refugee students as well as recommendations for how the U.S., and others, can support an increase in post-secondary educational opportunities.

Post-secondary education includes anything that encourages the development of a sustainable livelihood that is not dependent on humanitarian aid, such as degree programs at higher education institutions, vocational training for careers in local industries and sectors, or technical training that teaches sought-after skills.

Many host countries’ higher education systems are inadequately prepared to provide refugees with the same opportunities they can provide to other populations within their community. Additionally, post-secondary education opportunities are significantly further limited for refugee women and refugees with disabilities. These additional barriers may take the form of larger societal attitudes towards these populations, gender-based violence, forced marriages, and limited resources to train teachers to properly include them in their lessons.

JRS assists refugees in overcoming whatever barriers they are facing through its Pathfinder program. The program’s goal is to build resilient refugee and host communities through education that leads to employment or entrepreneurial activities in the form of assistance such as scholarships, access to appropriate technology, and short-cycle vocational/professional education.

A key component of JRS’s approach is conducting a market system analysis of the local area, which identifies areas of work that will provide the greatest potential for study and employment. JRS also provides refugees with start-up support, career counseling, and entrepreneurial guidance to ensure that refugees are supported at every step in their journey to self-reliance.

Within the policy brief, JRS includes recommendations for actions that the U.S. government can take to better bridge the gap that refugee populations face in accessing postsecondary opportunities. While progress has been made, there is still much more that needs to be done to reach the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ 15 by 30 goal, which aims to increase the number of refugees enrolled in higher education to 15% of the global refugee population by 2030.

By utilizing JRS’s policy recommendations, not only can the U.S. government (as well as other governments and organizations) increase their ability to achieve UNHCR’s goal, but they can also play a pivotal role in building the political will and generating financial resources to help create a better future for millions of refugees around the world.

For further information or help answering any questions that you may have after reading the report, please contact Giulia McPherson, Director of Advocacy & Operations at JRS/USA.