Winnipeg man calls on Manitoba universities to waive tuition fees for Ukrainian students
Nick Krawetz says universities should cover tuition and living costs for Ukrainian students affected by war
Nick Krawetz, a third-generation Ukrainian-Canadian from Winnipeg, is asking Manitoba universities to cover tuition costs for Ukrainian students impacted by the war.
Krawetz wrote a letter to the presidents of Brandon University, the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba on Saturday. In the letter, he calls on them to cover the costs of airfare, tuition, resident fees, meal plans and counselling for Ukrainian students.
"It's high anxiety when their families are being bombed right now or they're cut off from their families or finances," Krawetz said in an interview with CBC.
He says many Ukrainian students in Manitoba have families facing the war, and there are students in Ukraine who are also looking to flee the country and come to Canada.
Manitoba universities can provide a beacon of hope for them by allowing them to continue their studies without financial burden or obligation, he said.
In Manitoba, tuition fees for international students range around $20,000 to $30,000 — and that doesn't include living costs.
"That would be a tremendous help for them," Krawetz said. "They are really the future of a sovereign, independent Ukraine when they go back to return to Ukraine and help rebuild the country."
In an email to CBC, the University of Winnipeg says it is waiving application fees for students coming from Ukraine and is extending support to all students impacted by the war. It says students in financial need can also apply for its emergency student relief fund.
The University of Manitoba says it has been working with impacted students on a case-by-case basis and is supporting them through extending fee deadlines, removing fees penalties and providing bursaries, emergency loans and food.
It says impacted students have also been offered help through immigration challenges and direct access to counselling without having to be triaged. Those living on campus have been offered payment extensions or deferrals, as well as flexibility on move-out dates, a spokesperson said.
Brandon University waiving tuition
Brandon University says it will waive tuition fees for international students coming from Ukraine and open residences to refugees.
"We have to do what we can to love those who are impacted by this and to make those who are doing it see that it's wrong," said university president David Docherty.
"We have an obligation, a moral obligation to do what we can … we can't let what's happening in Ukraine go without doing everything we can," he said.
Docherty said it's unclear how many students from Ukraine the school will sponsor at this point, but in previous years, Brandon University has sponsored Syrian and Afghan refugees and they typically got a year's worth of tuition, he said.
"It could be one. It could be 50 … it could be 50 people taking one course. There could be 10 people taking five courses. We don't know what that's going to look like yet," said Docherty.
Docherty says the university is also reaching out to existing students with Ukrainian heritage to offer them mental health support.
Small percentage of international students from Ukraine
According to data from the University of Manitoba, 37 out of 6,345 international students were from Ukraine in fall 2020. The university says it didn't have the latest numbers to provide by story deadline.
The University of Winnipeg says currently it has four undergraduate students and nine students from the Professional Applied and Continuing Education programs who are from Ukraine.
Brandon University has two students who identify as Ukrainian and zero Ukrainian international students. The school says there could be more students with Ukrainian heritage who didn't declared it upon registration because they identify as Canadians.
With only a small percentage of students from Ukraine to support, Krawetz says he believes universities can allow them to study safely without worry.
"These are not hundreds and hundreds of students at the moment. It's relatively a small fraction so I really think support could be provided," he said.