Welcoming Immigrants and Refugees: Emerging Trends in U.S. Higher Education - Part II: In Practice

In Part I we discussed policy and documentation challenges. Part II presents examples from around the U.S. and abroad, showcasing the many different ways refugees, immigrants, and international students are being welcomed in this country. Certainly, we should not detract from the seriousness of the current climate in the U.S. in regard to immigrants and refugees. However, there are amazing people and organizations throughout the world who are doing the kind of work that can make us feel energized and hopeful.

Higher Education Institutions

First, what can higher education institutions do to help?

Offer scholarships. One of the biggest hurdles refugees face is lack of funds. Offering scholarships to refugees and other vulnerable populations can ignite that spark of hope someone desperately needs. 

Be flexible. As mentioned in Part I, being flexible is important as long as it does not damage your credibility as an institution.

From the perspective of credential evaluations, we can also consider some flexibility in our approaches. There are a number of ways to adapt our work without damaging the integrity of the evaluation process. For instance, is it possible to verify documents online without putting the student or his/her family in danger? Or can we match formats and signatures with documents in our archives from previous evaluations? These are just a couple of approaches to take when faced with documents that may not follow established policies and guidelines.

Support refugee organizations. One final example of how higher education institutions can help is in supporting resettlement agencies and other nonprofit organizations who are in direct contact with refugees. As will be discussed later in this article, collaboration and partnerships can go a long way in spreading out limited resources and helping as many people as possible.


Along with higher education institutions, students are also welcoming refugees and vulnerable populations in their own unique ways. Again, looking back to Part I, we discussed the importance of how refugees and international students offer cultural exchange and countless contributions to enhancing our communities. 

For quite some time students have been supporting international students through student groups on campus. Likewise, students have supported refugees and immigrants through volunteering at resettlement agencies or other nonprofit organizations. 

Support also occurs in talking with fellow students and community members about the importance of a diverse campus community through events, social media, and beyond. Students are crucial in welcoming refugees and immigrants and must be supported by higher education institutions.

Resettlement Agencies and Other Nonprofit Organizations

Finally, let’s talk about resettlement agencies, nonprofit organizations, and government programs offering help to vulnerable populations.

Resettlement agencies throughout the U.S. have been working with refugees and immigrants for decades. Areas of the U.S. with dense populations of immigrants have well-established organizations helping to place vulnerable immigrants and families in more secure environments. 

Partnerships and collaborations between educational institutions and resettlement agencies are quite helpful to refugees attempting to restart their lives in the U.S. These partnerships can help extend valuable resources while helping refugees pursue their dreams.

Other nonprofit organizations have also been creatively increasing their support for helping refugees and immigrants such as:

  • job placement organizations

  • literacy programs

  • large conferences and summits involving job fairs and school fairs

There are small and large speaking engagements being established to help spread the word of the good work everyone is doing in providing opportunities for those who desperately need them. It should be noted that ECE launched our own initiative, ECE® Aid in mid-2016, to offer fee waivers to refugees and other vulnerable populations who need their academic credentials evaluated but may not be able to afford the costs. 

Lastly, the U.S. Department of State offers the Opportunity Funds Program through EducationUSA. This program assists students who lack financial resources for the many costs of applying to higher education institutions in the U.S.

Get creative!

If none of the above examples apply in your area, then it is time to start one of them. Partner with others outside of higher education. More importantly stay positive and talk to others to see what they are working on. Initiate speaking engagements, conferences, job fairs, school fairs, and other forms of networking through collaboration. Let’s support students, refugees, and immigrants, and let’s support each other.

We may not be able to help every single refugee, but helping even just one or five or 20 people can have a huge impact, not only for the student but also possibly for their entire family. From higher education institutions to resettlement agencies, from federal and state government to nonprofit organizations, people are coming up with amazing initiatives and projects to help immigrants and refugees.


Additional Resources:

  • An invaluable resource from a couple of years ago, the U.S. Department of State issued the “University Engagement Toolkit: How Campuses are Helping Refugees” in 2016. The toolkit offers some great examples of what higher education institutes and students are doing to provide help for refugees in their local communities. Many of the examples given within this article are either spoken of or were inspired by the Toolkit. 
  • IIE Resources

See also:

Zachary Holochwost is a Research & Knowledge Management Evaluator and has been with ECE since 2006. He also oversees ECE’s philanthropic initiative as ECE® Aid Administrator.



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