Obtaining a university education is an unattainable dream for many underprivileged young people. However, it has become a reality for hundreds of students without the means to attend through LAU’s University Scholarship Program (USP), a USAID-funded initiative that covers scholars’ full tuition and related expenses.
The program, which launched in Lebanon in September 2010, has benefited hundreds of top-performing students who come from public schools across the nation and who have severe financial need. This initiative has been so successful over these short six years that it was recently awarded more funding toward a seventh cohort of students, which will be known as USP VII.
“The American government is contributing another $37.5 million to continue this successful program over the next three years. This will allow at least 320 additional students nationwide to have the opportunity to access a high quality education at either the Lebanese American University or the American University of Beirut,” explained interim American Ambassador Richard H. Jones at an LAU ceremony in January to celebrate the initiative.
Majd el-Fakih, one of 237 current USP scholars at LAU, never imagined that he would have a chance to experience a university education.
“USP has changed my life. I am a business student at the best business school in the Middle East. Now my hope for a successful future and career has blossomed thanks to this scholarship,” said el-Fakih in a speech he gave at the ceremony.
With many of the first cohort’s students having completed their studies, the success of the USP initiative has become clear.
“Graduates of LAU’s USP program hit the job market running. They do as well as they do once they leave us because of the supervision, coaching, monitoring, evaluation and care that we give them,” commented LAU ’s Assistant Vice President for Outreach and Civic Engagement Elie Samia, who is involved with running the USP program.
“USP students are provided continual follow up from faculty and staff to ensure they are doing well academically and to make certain they are taking part in extracurricular activities, which plays a big part in their development. All this gives them the ability to fly with two wings when they graduate and become leaders of society as they contribute to the economy of Lebanon,” added Samia.
“Today, I’m officially an engineer with a full-time job while continuing graduate studies at LAU. Those four-and-a-half years as an undergraduate student changed my life and I have LAU and USAID to thank,” said Mustapha Hamad, one of 81 LAU graduates who have benefitted from USP.
USP scholars are selected based on merit, academic performance and financial need. They benefit from full scholarship support, including tuition fees, housing expenses, medical insurance, textbooks and a monthly stipend. All scholars are required to maintain academic excellence and actively engage in community service and leadership training and to take part in career preparation workshops.