Skip to main content

Demand for housing support rises among Ukrainian international students

A student is silhouetted at the Western University campus in London, Ont. on Wednesday, September 15, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nicole Osborne) A student is silhouetted at the Western University campus in London, Ont. on Wednesday, September 15, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nicole Osborne)

Housing is the latest financial headache international students from Ukraine are now dealing with, according to a Ukrainian student club at Humber College in Toronto.

As currency flow between Ukraine, Russia and Canada has come to a near standstill due to global sanctions and the loss of access to finances, many students’ families can no longer support them.

Some of the students in Canada have also become their families’ sole earning members, Oleksandra Shelduko, an undergraduate student at the college, told

“As a part-time waitress, I earn just enough to pay the rent for my off-campus apartment room and for my daily expenses,” she said.

“But it is not a long-term plan. …It’s hard to know that people back home are struggling, and you can’t send money to help because of how hard things are here for you.”

High international student fees also add to rising costs of living, which is why the Ukrainian Students Club at Humber College asked the school to grant free or subsidized summer residences to all impacted students, a move that George Brown College in Toronto and the University of Alberta have already put in motion.

“Realistically, if an international Ukrainian student right now can’t afford residence, there aren’t that many options,” said Kebrija Leeks-Kottick, the president of the Ukrainian Students Club at Humber.

“After being kicked out (of university residence) or if they are off-campus, they hope that a friend they’ve met at school or in the Ukrainian community will let them couch surf until they find a room.”

In response to the club’s concerns, Humber College has added several new policies to make housing accessible to Ukrainian and Russian students.

According to their website, students are being offered a bursary to cover the cost of residence for the month of May along with a $300 grocery gift card for residents who the war has impacted.

Students are still responsible for residential fees for June, July and August, and will need to pay the full sum on July 22. According to Humber college’s spokesperson, Nadia Araujo, the residence fee remains the same.

“To date, 79 students have been awarded this bursary. Residence staff continue to follow up with students in residence from Ukraine,” she said in a phone interview. 

Araujo urged students in need of assistance to contact their dean of international affairs so that accommodations can be made. 

The Ukrainian Students Club has also created a form for all students that are in need of funds or accommodations and tries to get them in touch with families that can take them in.

Other schools have different supports in place. George Brown College has created an emergency bursary fund for financial difficulties not related to tuition fees, such as living costs and student immigration fees.

“George Brown has been able to provide individualized financial support to over 100 students affected by the war in Ukraine thus far,” a spokesperson of George Brown College said to in an emailed statement.

The University of Alberta is offering up a bursary of up to a million dollars in financial support to Ukrainian students who may be suffering financial hardship and is offering assistance with housing accommodations, according to their website.

“For all Ukrainian students, including incoming students, the University of Alberta will provide up to a full tuition waiver for the next academic year and up to $7000 per term in living allowance,” a spokesperson of The University of Albera said to in an emailed statement.

“We will also provide funding to support living costs for all incoming Ukrainian students and current Ukrainian students in need during the 2022-23 academic year,” the school’s website reads.

The University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) has created a summer program for students from Ukraine to fill in the gap of support before the fall semester starts.

This four-month program is fully funded by the university and will provide on-campus housing, a stipend and will cover all travel costs from Ukraine to Canada.

Lilia Topouzova, assistant professor at UTM’s Institute of Communication, Culture & Information Technology, is one of the supporters of this initiative.

“It’s for any international students that's left the war zone. Some of them are already in Canada. Some of them have arrived. Some of them are in different European countries,” she said in a phone interview with

“A lot of what exists is actually exclusionary to the racialized students and … it's very much out of reach. So this is the first one that is created that covers everything should the students be accepted.”

Topouzova says that there is an unprecedented response among universities across the country to support Ukrainian international students and that the responses set the bar high for schools to support international students in the future.

“But, at the end of the day, universities are responding individually. These initiatives, while phenomenal, are not supported at a federal level,” she said.

According to Topouzova, this is one of the reasons why students may miss out on these initiatives.

Without federal backing, there is a lack of cohesion among schools’ responses and students need to know the right contacts to find out about programs. Top Stories

Local Spotlight

Stay Connected