Columbia Welcomes First Cohort of Displaced Scholars

Columbia has announced the inaugural cohort of recipients for its Scholarship for Displaced Students. Created and administered by the Columbia Global Centers, the program provides tuition, housing, and living support for refugees and other displaced students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees. Through this first-ever University-wide scholarship, 18 students will enroll in 12 schools and affiliates across the institution.

The students will enroll in Columbia’s School of General Studies, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia Law School, the School of Professional Studies, the Mailman School of Public Health, the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia School of Social Work, the School of the Arts, and Teachers College.

“I’m very proud of this program and the work it’s doing to support refugees and displaced students whose lives and education have been upended,” said Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger. “Recent events have reminded us once again of the interdependence of people and nations around the world, and universities like Columbia should be reaching across borders and doing what they can to provide leadership in addressing monumental global challenges.”

The recipients were selected from a competitive pool of more than 1,200 applicants and hail from thirteen countries—Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Nepal, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria, Turkey, and Venezuela.

“Our displaced scholarship students have faced tremendous challenges in the pursuit of their education, obstacles few of us could imagine, let alone overcome,” said Safwan M. Masri, executive vice president of Global Centers and Global Development. “What is most remarkable about each of our students is that they have consistently found ways to give back and help others—in spite of the adversity they have faced—and have never let go of their dreams to further their education. They are an inspiration. It is a privilege to enable their educational journey through the Displaced Student Scholarship program. I welcome them with all my heart to the Columbia community.”

The Columbia University Scholarship for Displaced Students began in 2016 as a program created by Professor Bruce Usher in The Tamer Center for Social Enterprise at Columbia Business School. It supported students from Syria to attend a select number of Columbia schools.

In 2018, Usher approached Masri to take over. Once under the purview of the Global Centers, the scholarship’s scale and reach were broadened to include students from anywhere in the world to attend any Columbia school or affiliate, across over 125 degree programs. This initiative, in its expanded form, launched in December of 2019.

The program is currently accepting applications for its second class. To apply, students must be foreign nationals with refugee status, have received asylum or submitted an application for asylum in the United States, or be in the United States on Temporary Protected Status. The scholarship includes full tuition and cost-of-living expenses for the duration of terms necessary to complete the degree.

Applicants must apply to and be accepted by one of the participating schools, each of which has its own admissions criteria and application deadline. A new category of students eligible for the scholarship starting this year are Internally Displaced Persons. More information about the program can be found on the Columbia Global Centers website.