Presidents’ Alliance Condemns Ban on Afghan Women’s Access to Higher Education

Banning Afghan women from accessing higher education by the Taliban violates human rights and jeopardizes Afghanistan’s future

January 5, 2023
CONTACT: Laura Wagner

Washington, D.C.— The Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration is deeply disheartened by the Taliban’s banning Afghan women from attending public and private universities. We commend the condemnation of this act by Secretary Blinken in a joint statement with other foreign ministers and urge the U.S. government to facilitate the ability of these women and other Afghans to study in the United States. The denial of access to higher education violates human rights and destroys the hope and livelihoods of Afghan women. We were deeply disappointed by Congress’ failure to pass the Afghan Adjustment Act at the close of 2022, leaving the over 75,000 Afghans evacuated to the U.S. in 2021 without a clear pathway to a permanent legal status when their humanitarian parole expires in the coming months. This includes many Afghan evacuees who have enrolled as students at U.S. colleges and universities over the past 18 months. 

Laura Wagner, Director of Refugee Student Initiatives at the Presidents’ Alliance, stated: “The ban on access to higher education for Afghan women by the Taliban at the end of December is a devastating blow to female Afghan students already facing extreme hardships. Attending classes was a last glimmer of hope for many Afghan women. This ban underscores the urgent need for U.S. colleges and universities to enroll Afghan and other forcibly displaced students.” 

Jill Welch,  Senior Policy Advisor for the Presidents’ Alliance stated: “The United States owes assistance and protection to the Afghan people, including those seeking to achieve their full potential through education. Congress should act quickly to adjust visa policy to better enable imperiled students to both to pursue a degree in the U.S and obtain permanent immigration status.”

As we look to 2023, the Presidents’ Alliance continues to support U.S. colleges and universities to enroll Afghan and other forcibly displaced students through technical assistance, communities of practice, and resources. We encourage U.S. colleges and universities to exercise flexibility and generosity to enroll forcibly displaced students and recommend these resources,  Directory of Presidents’ Alliance Resources to Support Students of a Refugee Background and Resources for Colleges and Universities Supporting Afghan Newcomers in the U.S. to support them in the process. 

We are heartened by the number of higher education institutions that have enrolled Afghan and other displaced students over the past few years. Not only does this offer a lifeline for forcibly displaced students but enriches campus communities. We commend Bard College for its leadership in enrolling and supporting Afghan students.  Sonita Alizada ‘23, an Afghan refugee and human rights and music major from Bard Annandale won a Rhodes Scholarship for 2023.  She is a very public advocate for women’s rights and a well-known rapper.  Edris Tajik ’23, an Afghan student who came to Bard last year from the University of Herat, was awarded a Schwarzman Scholarship to do a one-year master’s degree and leadership program in Global Affairs at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. These are just a few examples of Afghan students that not only brought diverse perspectives to their campus, but have also been recognized as outstanding scholars. 


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 advance just, forward-looking immigration policies and practices at the federal, state, and campus levels that are consistent with our heritage as a nation of immigrants and the academic values of equity and openness. The Alliance is composed of over 550 presidents and chancellors of public and private colleges and universities, enrolling over five million students in 43 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico.