Student refugee program up for renewal this year

By Scott Strasser, November 17 2015 —

University of Calgary administration and the Students’ Union are looking to renew their funding agreement on the student refugee program. The current agreement of three years expires in April.

The student refugee program is an initiative coordinated by the SU and World University Services of Canada (WUSC). The program brings two refugees to the U of C each year to begin their degrees.

An SU levy set up in 1986 funds the majority of the program. SU vice-president operations and finance Sarah Pousette said the levy accounts for $107,000 per year.

The university also contributes to the program, waiving the cost of housing, tuition and textbooks for incoming refugee students’ first year.

“How we see it, this really is a student program and we contribute to it,” said university vice-provost student experience Susan Barker.

Pousette said the SU has a good relationship with administration regarding the program. She hopes a similar agreement will be put in place.

“Right now we’re able to bring two students every year with the support the university provides, so it’s working quite well,” she said. “They really do believe in continuing to support our program, we just haven’t figured out exactly what that’s going look like yet.”

Barker said the program is set up by the SU to phase out funding reliance over the course of the refugee students’ degrees, which is why administration only funds the first year.

“The SU take on responsibility for the early years in terms of what they contribute. That tails off over the four years so that there is less dependence on the program,” Barker said. “Students inevitably get jobs and become immersed in the full student experience. They’re able to be a little more independent.”

This year’ refugee students are Abraham Achuil and Tamun Ahas Ras. Both students came to Calgary from a refugee camp in Kenya after fleeing their native country of Sudan.

With the Syrian refugee crisis dominating media this year, Barker said it’s important to help those fleeing war and persecution.

“We’re extremely fortunate living in Calgary. We certainly believe that we have a responsibility to help. It’s a fundamental principle of humanity that we look to support these refugees,” Barker said.

The Refugee Students Board, which governs the program, will meet on Nov. 23 to discuss its future.

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