Embargo Period


Degree Name

MA in International Education

First Advisor

Alla Korzh


In 2019, only 3% of refugees had access to higher education. Using qualitative research methods of surveys and semi-structured interviews, this study explores the perspectives of two student affairs professionals and six individuals with formal refugee status granted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and in possession of a refugee travel document, who have not yet been resettled and are pursuing higher education in the United States. It focuses on the students’ preparation for and transition to life post-graduation, since UNHCR supposes that pursuing higher education abroad may be a viable ‘complementary pathway’ toward resettlement, self-reliance, and/or legal solutions, and there has not been much research to either support or refute this. The study was guided by the following research question: What are the lived experiences and perspectives of students with refugee travel documents pursuing higher education in the United States, particularly focusing on their preparation for and transition to life post-graduation? This study provides valuable insights for various stakeholders aiming to support this often-invisible subpopulation of international students to succeed in higher education. All student participants envisioned that a tertiary scholarship might lead to a durable solution to their refugee status. While access to employment-based visas in the U.S. or elsewhere was an additional legal solution to which these students did not previously have access, the path to a permanent legal status in the United States or elsewhere remained fraught. As the findings demonstrate, it is important that any U.S. university or sponsorship organization developing a scholarship program for this population collaborate with UNHCR on its design and support these students’ paths beyond graduation.

Keywords: refugees, refugee education, higher education, student affairs, international students, resettlement


African Studies | Immigration Law | International and Comparative Education | International Humanitarian Law | Student Counseling and Personnel Services