Since 2010, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided undergraduate scholarships for approximately 745 Lebanese public school graduates. These scholarships, under the University Scholarship Program (USP), cover full educational costs, including a housing and transportation allowance, when needed, and stipends, to allow public school scholars to attend high-quality universities that promote critical thinking, freedom, diversity, and respect.
With two-thirds of Lebanese students enrolled in private schools, the poorest youth in Lebanon are found in the public schools. Those who graduate from public schools often have limited choices in accessing reputable private higher education opportunities, regardless of their academic merit and performance. They often cannot afford the financial costs of attending the reputable universities found in Lebanon, including tuition, books, relocation or commuting, and participating in the regular campus life activities. These institutions offer students quality education that provides them with academic subject expertise together with skills in critical thinking, communication, and leadership that increase job marketability. It has long been established that university education is tied directly to expanding economic opportunities and the potential of graduates in the job market. Unfortunately, meritorious public school students with high financial need have limited access to the higher education that can expand their potential. Thus, USP aims at enabling these worthy Lebanese public school graduates to access quality higher education and thereby increase their job readiness. That readiness, in turn, will maximize their potential to support Lebanon’s democratic and economic development.
Under USP, over 700 scholarships have been awarded, and 267 students have graduated so far. While many graduates are currently working in interesting jobs, USAID up until now did not have much documentation on their career trajectories aside from anecdotal stories about their employment paths.
The USAID Asia and Middle East Bureau and the USAID Lebanon Mission partnered with RTI International and AMIDEAST to develop profiles of USP scholar graduates to document where they are now and how the USAID-supported scholarship contributed to their professional development and success. It is always a challenge to follow up and track students after they graduate, and this effort will fill some gaps in knowledge and build a library of “stories” about who USP scholars are, what they are doing today, and how they got there. It will create scholar profiles that can be used primarily for outreach and external distribution and as a resource for answering the question, “Where are they now?”