Frequently Asked Questions
Student Selection and Program Requirements
What are the eligibility requirements for being accepted in the Iraqi Student Project?
The ISP is for students who wish to study in the United States and then return to Iraq. ISP's mission is to work with students whose education was disrupted by the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the continuing occupation and violence, and who have no other access to education. The likelihood of academic success is ISP's constant measure of a student’s potential.
Students complete an application form downloadable from the ISP website. The following criteria determine eligibility:
- must have completed high school,
- must not already have a college degree,
- must be no more than 24 years of age, and
- must be willing to live in Damascus and work with ISP volunteers from October until the following summer.
After an application is reviewed, the student is interviewed by ISP board members in Damascus. Following a satisfactory interview, a meeting is scheduled with the student's family to discuss the student’s participation in the ISP and to seek their consent. Once a student is accepted into ISP, the preparatory process continues.
The criteria for continuing with ISP include
- good physical and psychological health,
- strong motivation toward study,
- the consent of parents or guardians,
- clear economic need,
- adequate documentation (including academic records), and
- English language skills
English language skills are measured by TOEFL scores that meet partner college/university requirements. Some will accept lower scores but require additional ESL work before beginning classes. The TOEFL is administered in Syria five or six times each year.
Are some of the students women?
ISP aims at accepting men and women in equal numbers. Of the fourteen ISP students admitted to US colleges/universities in 2008, six are women. Seven women are among the twenty-one who began studies in 2009. Six women and two men began studies in 2010. Five women and four men will begin studies in 2011.
What are the academic standards students must meet?
Each partner college or university requires ISP students to maintain a specified GPA. ISP students follow the same college/university academic policies and procedures as other students in attendance.
Partner Colleges and Universities
What is the role of the college or university in partnership with ISP?
The partner college or university provides tuition and fee waivers (or in some cases a full scholarship) to the ISP student. Close communication among the admissions office of the college or university, ISP, and the student’s volunteer support group ensures that the I-20 document records all contributions to the total costs.
How are students matched with partnering colleges/universities?
In negotiation with the appropriate persons at the partnering college or university, the ISP National Director places students according to their academic goals, English language skills, interests, and personal needs.
Do ISP students attend only colleges and universities offering tuition waivers?
A few ISP students are able to apply to “need blind” or “need sensitive” US colleges and universities, in which case a full scholarship may be offered.
Which US colleges and universities have ISP students currently enrolled?
Alverno College, Milwaukee WI - Augsburg College, Minneapolis MN - Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson NY - Bellarmine University, Louisville KY - Beloit College, Beloit WI - Benedictine College, Atchison KS - Berea College, Berea KY - Bluffton University, Bluffton OH - Canisius College,Buffalo NY - Clark University, Worcester MA - College of Saint Mary, Omaha NE - College of St. Scholastica, Duluth MN - Dartmouth College, Hanover NH - DePaul University, Chicago IL - Dominican University, River Forest IL - Dominican University, San Rafael CA - Fairfield University, Fairfield CT - Gonzaga University, Spokane WA - Goucher College, Baltimore MD - Great Falls University, Great Falls MT - Grinnell College, Grinnell IA - Holy Cross College, South Bend IN - Lewis University, Romeoville IL - Loyola College, Chicago IL - Manchester College, N. Manchester IN - Manhattan College, New York NY - Manhattanville College, Purchase NY - Monterey Peninsula College, Monterey CA - Mount Mary College, Milwaukee WI - Polytechnic Institute of NYU, Brooklyn NY - Saginaw Valley State University, Saginaw MI - University of Evansville, Evansville IN - University of Oregon, Eugene OR - Webster University, St. Louis MO - Wellesley College, Wellesley MA - Worcester Polytechnic University, Worcester MA
ISP Volunteer Support Groups
How do Support Groups help ISP students?
- Support groups foster the well-being and academic success of ISP students by assuming responsibility for their financial, physical, social, and emotional needs beyond what the partnering college or university provides.
- Support groups greet their students upon arrival and introduce them to services for international students at the college, including orientation sessions and, if needed, available ESL programs (English as a Second Language).
- Some colleges/universities offer a full scholarship (including room and board) or the institution pays for a meal plan. When room and board is not included in the scholarship, support group volunteers find a host family for the student.
- Members of the support group often invite the student to dinner in their homes, take a special interest in the student’s adjustment to US culture, and encourage the student to share their experiences in Iraq and Syria.
- Insofar as possible, support groups help students stay in touch with their families overseas.
- During breaks between academic terms, the support groups find internships, volunteer opportunities, recreational and travel opportunities within the US, and formal or informal summer studies.
Documentation and Legal Matters
Must students have official records or transcripts showing completion of secondary school?
Most students have their official high school academic records and proof of graduation. In a few cases records were destroyed during the war and subsequent sectarian violence.
What is an I-20 form? How do ISP students obtain visas?
An I-20 is an official government document whereby the educational institution affirms that the student is accepted and has or will obtain the financial support needed. The I-20 may also show the expectation of earnings by the student’s involvement in a work-study program.
After receiving the I-20 and acceptance letter, the student applies for the F-1 visa at the nearest US Consulate. The F-1 is a non-immigrant visa requiring the applicant to have the intention to return to his/her home country. The visa officer who interviews a student must be assured of intention to return in order to grant the visa.
All ISP students are focused on the intent to return, an intention discussed with their families as well as by ISP volunteers in Syria. Support groups in the US are also aware of the necessity of the intent to return to Iraq and help reinforce it.
To date, no ISP student who has applied for the F-1 visa has been denied.
Do ISP students have an I-94 from the Department of Homeland Security?
Upon entrance to the United States, each student receives an I-94 from the Department of Homeland Security which validates his or her presence in the US during the years of undergraduate study.
Funding the Iraqi Student Project
How is ISP’s national operation funded?
ISP’s partner colleges and universities make the largest contribution by waiving tuition and, in some cases, providing room and board on campus. Funding for ISP’s efforts in the US comes from grants, private donors, religious groups, civic organizations, peace and justice ministries, fundraising events. Operational expenses include those incurred in Damascus, Syria, where the Iraqi students are prepared for their educational experience in the US.
What role do volunteer support groups have in fundraising?
Support group raise funds locally as needed for expenses (beyond what the college or university provides) throughout their four years in the US.
Some expenses are incurred before—or immediately after—the student arrives:
- Airfare for travel to the US
- Room and board when on-campus housing is not provided by the college/university
- Transportation to and from the college/university if the student lives off campus
- Academic fees, textbooks, activity fees
- Health insurance
Support groups which provide room and board for students living on campus have annual budgets of $12,000 or more.
Do ISP students engage in work/study to help cover costs?
ISP students are required to help support themselves through work/study. Students may work up to 20 hours per week in on-campus jobs during the academic year. Full-time work is permitted during vacation periods, in accordance with US government regulations. The college or university may regulate the number of hours international students work. The maximum allowed is 40 hours a week.
History and Timeline of the Iraqi Student Project
How did the Iraqi Student Project begin?
ISP founders Gabe Huck and Theresa Kubasak traveled to Iraq several times with Voices in the Wilderness and witnessed first-hand the untold suffering created by the 1990-2003 sanctions. In 2005, they retired from publishing and teaching and moved to Damascus, Syria, which by early 2007 held a million Iraqi refugees who could not become citizens, legally work, or enroll in state-sponsored higher education. ISP was born out of concern for Iraqi refugee students who could not begin or continue their college studies.
The Bosnian Student Project of the mid-1990’s served as a model for the development of ISP. After exploratory conversations in the US, a board of directors incorporated ISP in the State of New York and applied for 501(c)3 status with the IRS.
During the 2007-08 academic year the US Director and others sought tuition waivers from colleges and universities and helped form volunteer support groups. ISP board members and volunteers worked intensively with prospective ISP students in Damascus to prepare them for study in the US.
When the 2008-09 academic year began, fourteen Iraqi students took their places in US colleges. Twenty-one students began their academic careers at US colleges in September, 2009. There are currently twelve candidates being prepared for admission to US colleges in 2010. As of May 2010, six of the twelve students awaiting placement have been admitted, an indication that the economic downturn is having a negative impact on ISP’s efforts.
How do I get involved? [See the homepage link: What You Can Do]
- Donate to the ISP by check, credit card, or PayPal
- Join a local support group. Many support groups maintain their own websites with information on how to get involved in their local chapters. Volunteer postings can be found on the website
- Assist in obtaining a tuition waiver/scholarship from a college or university you are affiliated with (as a student, alum, administrator, or faculty)
- Become a student with ISP
- Find us on Facebook