Nova Scotia

Cape Breton University to offer bursaries for refugees

Local Syrian families have expressed interest, especially parents who have never had such chances, a settlement councilor says.

'That's an option that ... would make someone want to stay,' says student vice president

The 10 new bursaries will be renewable for the duration of a student's initial undergraduate program. (cbu.ca)

Cape Breton University is offering 10 bursaries to refugees settled on the island in hopes of encouraging families to stay.

The awards are for the value of tuition for one undergraduate program.

Local Syrian families have expressed interest, especially parents who have never had such chances, settlement councilor Sohila Abdo said Monday.

​"They're very interested. They think it's a great opportunity," said Abdo, who is with the Cape Breton Island Centre for Immigration.

"Most of them either didn't finish school or didn't finish their diplomas. To come here and have that opportunity is great."

'Make them feel very welcome'

The proposal for the bursaries was put forward by the CBU students' union a couple of months ago. The university's board of governors approved the idea last week.

The university has offered $1.5 million in scholarships to all students in recent years. The school has also publicly urged the federal government to move toward making post-secondary education free for all students, backed by taxation at the federal level.

Students' union executive vice president Brandon MacDonald said he was motivated to help after watching the news about Syrian families moving to Cape Breton earlier this year.

"That's an option that I think would be much appreciated, that would make someone want to stay, that would make them feel very welcome," he said.

Students' union executive vice president Brandon MacDonald says he hopes refugee families will be more able to make Cape Breton home with the bursaries. (Holly Conners/CBC)

The 10 new bursaries will be renewable for the duration of a student's initial undergraduate program, provided the recipient continues to meet the award criteria, CBU president David Wheeler said.

The recipient must have arrived as a refugee and settled on Cape Breton, provide required financial information and then maintain a passing average while in school.

Cape Breton University president David Wheeler says refugees who are children now can apply when they're old enough for the funding. (Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith/CBC)

The bursaries will be offered in perpetuity, Wheeler said.

"Whether or not there's a six-year-old settler from Syria today who's looking forward to coming to CBU in 12 years time — which would be wonderful — or whether it's a person in their 20s or 30s who's just arrived, who is interested to study here, both will qualify," he said.

Both Wheeler and MacDonald said they hope the gesture will encourage refugee families to make Cape Breton home.

About the Author

Holly Conners is a reporter and current affairs producer who has been with CBC Cape Breton since 1998. Contact her at holly.conners@cbc.ca.