Which is another practical reason to address the problem, he and others said: In countries with aging populations, motivated refugees with college educations could provide a workforce to fill high-skilled jobs that are now going unclaimed.
There are already shortages in Germany of engineers, IT specialists and health-care specialists, according to the Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. In the United States, immigrants are 30 percent more likely to start businesses than nonimmigrants, the Small Business Administration reports, and own 18 percent of all small businesses.
“If Germany manages to master this crisis, we will look back in 10 or 20 years and say this was really the badly needed influx of a younger, more diverse, educated labor force we really, really needed,” Seyfarth said.
“These students are unbelievably high functioning,” Milner said. “Like immigrants that came here for the last three centuries, they’re some of the best and brightest, and they’re certainly the most tenacious. Even if these students do stay, they’re going to be your next entrepreneurs, the next engines of growth for this country.”
But some of them have given up on the United States.
Wael Amayri, a Palestinian refugee living in Syria, had invested three years toward the five he needed to get a degree in electronic engineering by the time he fled. Even before the war began, he said, he’d always hoped to come to an American university.
Now he plans to stay in Germany and study here toward a master’s, and ultimately a doctoral, degree in computer programming.
“If I want to go to a university in the United States of the same quality, it would be very expensive,” Amayri said. “Germany has done so much for me, I would give anything back.”
By shutting out refugee university students, “We are closing off access to a huge pool of talent,” said Valerie Amos, who previously served as UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief and now is director of SOAS, formerly the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. “There’s a whole skill base that we are not opening up access to.”
Some U.S. universities, in addition to Evansville and Knox, are offering full scholarships to Syrians, including Harvard, Brown, NYU, Northeastern, and the University of New Mexico, said Maya Alkateb-Chami, the director of Jusoor.
But more need to step up, Amos said.
“You’ve got U.S. universities that have literally billions of dollars,” she said. “They have huge endowments. They can definitely do more.”
The need is massive, echoed Alkateb-Chami.
“Academic institutions in the U.S. have an opportunity to help through education, and to exercise leadership and fill in that vacuum that governments globally have unfortunately not acted to fill,” she said.
If they don’t, Milner said, “It’s a terrible missed opportunity. It’s morally abhorrent. This is hundreds of thousands of people. It really is a lost generation.”
As for Al Aas, he still wants to study in the United States, but now may follow his parents to Canada. Wherever he goes, he’s determined to get a degree.
“I will,” he said. “It’s a must, and I will.”
This post appears courtesy of The Hechinger Report.