Presidents’ Alliance and Duolingo Release Groundbreaking Report on Tracking Refugee Students in U.S. Higher Education

For Immediate Release:
November 30, 2023

Jason Koh,
Sophie Wodzak,

Presidents’ Alliance and Duolingo Release Groundbreaking Report on Tracking Refugee Students in U.S. Higher Education

Washington D.C. – November 30: The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration and Duolingo have released a report that focuses on the lack of essential data on refugee students in U.S. higher education. 

The report, Do you know who your refugee students are? Mapping and understanding displaced students on U.S. campuses, highlights how the existing challenges of expanding higher education access to refugee students in U.S. universities become more difficult due to the lack of comprehensive data on this student population. The report also points to the crucial role higher education plays in addressing the global refugee crisis through  initiatives like the Duolingo University Access (DUA) Program.

“Refugee students today overcome many hurdles to study in the U.S.” said Laura Wagner, Director of Refugee Student Initiatives at the Presidents’ Alliance, “But without understanding the presence and needs of refugee students in U.S. higher education, our ability to effectively offer critical support to these students is limited.”

In the face of escalating global conflicts, recent data underscores a stark reality: only 7% of globally-displaced students are enrolled in higher education, a fraction compared to the 40% of non-refugee students. Despite this, national-level data on international students does not distinguish refugee students from other international peers. As a consequence, on-the-ground initiatives aimed at helping refugee students operate in isolation from broader collaboration, and advocacy efforts often depend on anecdotal evidence rather than comprehensive data.

Miriam Feldblum, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Presidents’ Alliance, said, “Implementing a systematic approach to collect and report data on refugee students at U.S. campuses can empower advocates and higher education institutions to advance efforts to expand access for refugee students and adapt and institutionalize best practices to address the distinctive needs of these students. Higher education can play a pivotal role in welcoming and shaping a self-determined future for refugee and displaced students.”

This collaborative report underscores the urgency of addressing the growing humanitarian crisis faced by displaced populations seeking higher education. The Presidents’ Alliance and Duolingo emphasize the need for systematic data collection and cross-sector partnerships to meet the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) goal to increase refugee enrollment in higher education to 15% by 2030 and ensure that the aspirations of refugee students are actively supported.

“”Laura Kaub, Duolingo University Access Program Advisor,  said “For refugee students, higher education isn’t just about earning a degree; it’s a path to a more secure future. Everyone working in education has a role to play in addressing today’s humanitarian crisis. The important thing is just to take that first step.” 

Join us today, November 30th, as we launch this important report via a webinar at 12 PM ET/9 AM PT and learn how to  take a significant step towards creating a more inclusive and equitable future for all.


The nonpartisan, nonprofit Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration brings college and university presidents and chancellors together on the immigration issues that impact higher education, our students, campuses, communities and nation. We work to support undocumented, international and refugee students, and advance forward-looking immigration policies and practices at the federal level, in our states, and across our college campuses. The Alliance is composed of 550+ college and university presidents and chancellors of public and private colleges and universities, enrolling over five million students in 43 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

The Duolingo English Test (DET) is a convenient, fast, and affordable English proficiency test, designed with the test taker in mind. By integrating the latest assessment science and AI, the test empowers anyone to certify their English when and where they’re at the best. A combination of rigorous security protocols, AI, and remote proctoring ensure the integrity of the test. DET test scores are accepted by over 4,800 programs around the world, including Columbia, University of Toronto, University of Warwick, and Yale.