Elizabethtown invites Syrian refugees to promote social justice

Elizabethtown College is offering four-year scholarships to five Syrian refugees as a symbol of its commitment to social justice.

“We're offering $5,000 additionally to up to five Syrian students who are refugees … in addition to the normal aid that we offer to international students,” school President Dr. Carl Strikwerda told CBS 21, adding that two students have already applied for the program, which requires both an ability to speak English and the same academic credentials expected of other students.

“I think the US is so privileged with our wealth and power and education system, so some countries just don't have that,” opined student Rachel Engle.

“The refugees need our help. They're out there, we're here to help. E-town is very open to helping with diversity,” student Samuel Niebla told Fox 43. “You can see it around campus, especially with the different types of exchange students we have here at E-town, and I think it's even better to have the refugees here as well.”

Strikwerda elaborated further, saying, “The college has had a long standing commitment to social justice and peace issues, and we thought this was one step that's more than symbolic that we could do.”

Most students have already left campus for the summer, and those who remained were generally supportive of the initiative, but advocates did address one potential objection, strenuously denying that the scholarships would subtract from financial aid for existing students.

“We're not taking money away from any domestic student, or any other international student,” Strikwerda declared. “We have the infrastructure here. We can have a few more students. [They have] to meet the same admission requirements.”

“The Syrian refugees shouldn't be seen as taking any money away, because they [do their] best to give people in the United States and [Pennsylvania], as much money and aid as possible,” argued student Morgan Chambers. “It's just fun to meet people from different cultures and backgrounds, and it just really helps to define your experience here and in college.”

The Institute of International Education, which promotes efforts to help Syrian refugees access institutions of higher education abroad, lists Elizabethtown among 65 schools (most of them in the U.S.) that have joined its consortium since 2012. To date, the IIE claims that consortium members have provided 158 scholarships and 175 free online test prep courses to Syrian refugee students.

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