Starting next spring, over 100 Afghan refugees will attend Bard College tuition-free, President Leon Botstein said in a press conference Tuesday.
66 Afghan students are already studying on full scholarships at Bard’s Dutchess campus, and 20 more are expected to arrive in January — part of the school’s commitment to secure the future of at least 100 refugees at its New York, Massachusetts, and Berlin campuses.
Botstein said Bard was able to get nearly 200 students out of Kabul in the wake of the Taliban takeover. Most of them are enrolled at the American University of Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan, with which Bard has a dual degree program.
The college has created an Afghan Student Fund to provide “living, legal and other necessary support to Afghan students who come to Bard.” The funding will cover tuition, room, board, books and even provide students with a small stipend.
In addition to President Botstein, Tuesday’s roundtable discussion was attended by the White House coordinator for Operation Allies Welcome Jack Markell, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, Afghan student Jalil Sadat, and other educational leaders.
A ‘Chaotic’ Journey
Sadat, a student at the American University in Afghanistan, recounted how the Taliban takeover in August made it impossible for him to stay in his hometown of Kabul. On August 23, he entered Kabul airport with nothing but a smartphone, where he had a picture of his college ID and passport.
“I didn’t give up,” he said. Sadat said he knew US Marines were evacuating “allies” and tried convincing them that his life was at risk, “That’s all I had and that’s when I understood the importance of education.”
Sadat said seeing people desperate to leave their homes was heartbreaking. After a long and chaotic journey from Kabul to Qatar, then Germany, and finally New York, Sadat reached Annandale, where Bard College representatives “offered to help.”
Gov. Hochul — who had previously committed $3 million for Afghan refugees — announced an additional $2 million to refugee resettlement agencies. The donation will take care of shelter, health care, and legal services.
The governor said the “special responsibility” that Bard had accepted was a “model for other institutions.” She added that the state of New York would help these refugees build a whole new life, “whether it’s getting an education at great institutions like Bard or getting a job and becoming an integral member of our great state.”