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Reflective Essays

Vol. 26 No. 2

Asylum Seekers in Higher Education in the United States: Emerging Challenges and Potential Solutions

February 17, 2021


Asylum seekers are generally excluded from welfare provisions, social support, and higher education (HE) in their host countries. The depth and impact of these exclusions is barely known, as this population remains invisible and underserved. This article aims to deepen understanding of the challenges asylum seekers face in accessing HE in Western countries and present potential solutions. Existing literature highlights (1) socioeconomic challenges such as poverty, unrecognition of qualifications, low language proficiency, and mental health issues; (2) institutional barriers; and (3) good practices such as policy advocacy, scholarships, alternative admission paths, staff and faculty training, community collaboration, and asylum seeker involvement in policy and decision-making. We pose critical questions on the role of higher education institutions in addressing migration challenges and facilitating integration through access to education. An ongoing student-run initiative at a private U.S. university serves as a case example to offer further directions for research and practice.