New funding provides increased support for refugees

Posted: September 11, 2015 2:00 p.m.

Nearly 60 refugees from countries including Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Rwanda, Somalia, and the Sudan have studied at the University of Regina.
Nearly 60 refugees from countries including Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Rwanda, Somalia, and the Sudan have studied at the University of Regina. Photo: U of R Photography

President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Vianne Timmons today announced new funding to support refugee students. The University will partner with the University of Regina Students’ Union (URSU) to provide approximately $200,000 for refugees to pursue post-secondary education.

URSU currently partners with the local World University of Canada (WUSC) group to support refugees who are pursuing a University of Regina education through the WUSC Student Refugee program (SRP).

The SRP Program is the only program of its kind in the world, combining refugee resettlement and post-secondary education. University of Regina students pay a levy of $4.25 in the fall and winter semesters to URSU, which provides approximately $100,000 annually to the SRP Program. For the first time ever, the University has committed to matching the student levy, allowing URSU and WUSC to double the number of students they can support in the years to come.

“University faculty, staff and students have worked with WUSC since 1979, and over that time have helped nearly 60 refugees study here,” says Dr. Timmons.“Through the work of WUSC and URSU, University of Regina students have played a major role in providing this support over the years. In light of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Middle East and Europe, I believe it is more important than ever for the University as an institution to support our students’ efforts. For that reason, I have committed that the University of Regina will match the levy contributions made by our students for this academic year and beyond.”

The funds support first-year students, aiding with expenses such as rent, tuition, textbooks, computers, clothing and personal allowances. The student levy also provides $1,000 per semester for continuing students in subsequent undergraduate years.

“WUSC is very grateful for the University of Regina’s generous offer to match their already significant contribution to the Student Refugee Program.” says Chris Eaton, Executive Director of WUSC. “The University of Regina has been a long-standing partner of the SRP, thanks to their deeply committed network of students, faculty, staff and members of the community. Today, they have demonstrated remarkable leadership in the face of this ongoing global refugee crisis, providing an exemplary model for other post-secondary education institutions to follow.”

“WUSC has been a second chance for me to live a safe, meaningful and dignified life,” says Patience Umereweneza, former SRP student, University of Regina alumna and employee at Regina Transition House. “It gave me a new home, a new country and the education to thrive and contribute. I am extremely thankful to the University for this added support.”

The University currently provides up to $20,000 per year in scholarships to help refugees pursue their studies beyond the first year. Now, the matched funding will see the University provide approximately $100,000 in additional funds this year, which will be added to the amount already provided by URSU through its student levy.

Since WUSC’s Student Refugee Program began, Canadian post-secondary education institutions have sponsored more than 1,500 refugees who have settled in Canada, completed post-secondary studies and become Canadian citizens.

“USRU is proud to be part of this movement, supporting three students for this academic year, and commends the University for matching the contributions made by students,” says URSU President Devon Peters.

Refugees who have studied at the University over the years have come from countries including Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Rwanda, Somalia, and the Sudan.