Andrian Makhnachov is celebrating the one-year anniversary of his arrival in Canada after he fled the war in Ukraine in 2022.
But with the celebration comes sadness, because he has been unable to continue his university education since getting here.
“The reason why I’m still not at university is because it’s very expensive and I don’t have an opportunity right now. But if there will be any program, anything to make it easier for Ukrainians, I would do it,” Makhnachov said.
Ukrainians like Makhnachov who fled the war are considered international students and have to pay much higher student fees as a result.
People with refugee status are usually considered domestic students in Canada, but Ukrainians who fled the war are part of the Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (CUAET) program, meaning they are not considered refugees.
Tuition for international students ranges from $25,000 to $35,000 a year. For domestic students, it’s more like $7,000 to $8,000.
Makhnachov said that he reached out to universities in Saskatchewan, but was told they don’t have any programs specifically for Ukrainians and transferred him to their international student departments.
“I’m not trying to complain, it’s not a mistake, [the Saskatchewan government] give us all opportunities to come here to Canada. But I don’t have any friends, I don’t know any Ukrainian person who is even thinking about paying for university because there’s nothing done for Ukrainians.”
The province’s Advanced Education Minister Gord Wyant said the government was recently made aware of the issue and is looking for a solution.
“We’ve heard over the last short period of time some of the challenges that those students are having, especially a number from Grade 12,” Wyant said. “I’ve asked the ministry to look at options of how we can take care of their concerns, perhaps with some subsidies. I’m waiting for my ministry to come back with some solutions.”
Wyant said there would be a response soon, but he didn’t know exactly when.
In a statement, the University of Saskatchewan said it was anticipating discussions about the issue with the provincial government.
“USask remains committed to supporting students affected by the invasion of Ukraine, as well as students from countries around the world, through the services offered by the International Student and Study Abroad Centre (ISSAC).”
The University of Regina also released a statement, saying it would welcome any clarity from the federal government on special provisions for Ukrainian students seeing post-secondary education in Saskatchewan.
It added that all Ukrainians who plan to make Canada their permanent home may apply for permanent residency, if they are eligible. Those who become permanent residents would then be considered domestic students and pay domestic student rates.
Makhnachov hopes that the government and the universities will find a way to make things easier for Ukrainians like him wanting to pursue post-secondary education.
“Since I was a kid, I planned to study a lot,” he said.
“I always dreamed about the student life and now what I’m doing is just trying to find a job to pay for my rent or to buy food and I don’t have even time to think.”