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How Public Universities Serve Refugees

By Bernie Burrola

Since their founding, public universities have existed to advance the public good. Through education, research, and community engagement work, they educate the public, foster life-changing innovations, and help their communities tackle their most vexing challenges.

That includes welcoming and providing for new members of their communities. As Afghan refugees seek safe harbor in increasing numbers, public universities in Canada, Mexico, and the United States are stepping up to meet the needs of refugees who have immigrated.

This mission is hardly new. Over the past half-century, Canadian, Mexican, and American public universities have welcomed waves of refugees arriving from countries such as Vietnam, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Haiti. APLU and its sister higher education organizations have developed a resource kit for helping Afghan students and scholars.

Public universities are already rising to the challenge, working to collaboratively identify needs and resources to provide support to Afghan students, scholars, and scientists. On each campus and in each community, this looks different. Institutions can help bridge cultural divides, provide temporary housing, offer English courses, give legal assistance through their law schools, and support workforce development efforts in collaboration with the private sector and local community organizations.

All three countries benefit when public universities continue to engage their local communities to help make resettlement of refugees as seamless and successful as possible. The data are clear that as refugees get settled, they join in and make our communities more dynamic, more diverse, and contribute greatly to economic development.

  • International Programs

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