Ukrainian, Russian, Belorussian students able to defer tuition payments, but student say support is hard to navigate

UBC will allow students from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus to defer their tuition amid the ongoing conflict in Eastern Europe.

In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine — which has been ongoing since February 24 — countries around the world have placed sanctions on Russia which include cutting off Russian banks from the global financial system and banning Russian flights from certain airspaces. These sanctions have severely damaged the Russian economy.

“I completely lost my ability to receive emergency support from my family,” said Olga Belokon, a fourth-year master’s student in the department of Asian studies. She has been standing in solidarity with Ukrainians outside of the bookstore since the invasion began.

Another Russian student, first year Kseniia Voronkova, said, “I can't receive money from my native country. My parents sent some amount for the month and [it] still hasn't come.”

Before UBC announced tuition deferrals for these students, some had publicly complained that the university wasn’t doing enough to support those who have been impacted.

Belokon said this latest round of sanctions aren’t new for her. Since Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, the country has had sanctions imposed against it.

“I have been financially affected by tensions between Russia and Ukraine for much longer than many think.”

Belokon said the process to apply is easy but “may be rather slow.”

“I can’t tell what time it may take to get the financial aid,” she said

Matthew Ramsey, the director of university affairs at UBC Media Relations, said UBC has “a really good system” in place to financially support students impacted by international conflicts.

“These types of supports for students are, and have been available, basically, forever,” he said, adding that the university provided financial assistance to students during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Hong Kong protests in 2019.

“We can assist students who, for any number of reasons, are experiencing financial difficulties. So the fact that those supports are being extended to Russian and Ukrainian students, in this instance … shouldn't really be a surprise.”

Other than financial difficulties, the invasion has caused issues for students mentally and emotionally. Russian and Ukrainian students received an email from UBC about resources for counselling and wellness support as soon as the invasion began in February.

Though happy to have the resources available to her, Voronkova also found the university's support to be difficult to navigate.

“I really appreciate this community provided by UBC, but at the same time, sometimes I'm not sure whether what I can tell to the counsellor or just to the social worker,” Voronkova said.

Ramsey added that students who are experiencing financial difficulties should contact their Enrolment Services Advisor.

Voronkova said she contacted her enrolment advisor for advice but has received no information back. “I was just confused about this opportunity, but still no response.”

“The issue with the deferral is that there is no exact date till when it [ends]. So it's also kind of ambiguous, because I don't know how it's gonna help,” she added.