Ryerson’s Student Refugee Program staying afloat despite Ford budget cuts

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By Iman Adem

The World University Services Canada (WUSC) Student Refugee Program at Ryerson is committed to staying “fiscally responsible” by collaborating with different offices in light of budget cuts, according to the office of International Student Support, Student Life & Learning Support.

In January, the Ontario government introduced the Student Choice Initiative (SCI)—allowing students to opt out of certain ancillary fees that were once mandatory in their tuition. 

Some of these fees included non-academic clubs, student societies and program unions that were deemed non-essential. 

After almost a year since the cuts were announced, Ryerson has released the percentage of opt-ins for programs on campus.

One of the lowest opt-in percentages was the WUSC Student Refugee Program—receiving 48.8 per cent opt-ins from full-time students and 59.4 per cent of opt-ins from part-time students. The ancillary fee cost to opt-in is $4.69 annually.

The WUSC at Ryerson aims to spread “awareness… [about] global issues and international development,” according to the university website. The Student Refugee Program supports newcomers to Canada and helps them establish permanent residence. 

Despite the low funding, the WUSC has managed to stay afloat making efforts to collaborate with different offices in student affairs as well as the WUSC headquarters, located in Ottawa, on events and programs, according to the office of International Student Support, Student Life & Learning Support.

In hopes of increasing the opt-in percentages in the coming years, the WUSC Ryerson Local Committee has been working to improve awareness on campus about the program. 

Their main goal is to illustrate how “it provides settlement support and opportunities for scholars on their post-secondary education journey in Canada,” the office said via email. 

For the remainder of the 2019-20 year, the office said that “the focus of the WUSC Local Committee this year is to be more visible on campus, shed light on migrant stories, [and] share more about the Student Refugee Program.” 

Last month, the WUSC organized three events including the Global Learning Fair, a Dreams film screening and a Reverse Trick or Treat.

Ryerson international student advisor Samantha DeBoer commended the WUSC on “spreading awareness on campus about…women’s empowerment, fair trade products, undocumented migrants, and the importance of unpacking stereotypes.”

Berin Arikan, a secretary for WUSC and an international student from Turkey, said she joined the program in hopes of learning more about the immigration process in Canada. 

“[The WUSC] has impacted me positively and I [have] learned many new things about refugees and their journey to Canada,” said Arikan.

Arikan expressed that the WUSC is adamant on ensuring members are educated on the topic of immigration and are given a safe space to have important discussions pertaining to refugees. 

She also believes it is vital that the WUSC remain at Ryerson in coming years.

“The WUSC is important because it helps with the transition and adaptation of WUSC scholars, along with [providing] academic [assistance].” She also expressed the benefits of having refugees at Ryerson. “It helps [the Ryerson] community blend with people from different backgrounds.”

Right now, the WUSC has no set plans for fundraising. “Our focus has primarily been on greater campus awareness through programming and continuing to support the eight scholars currently sponsored by Ryerson,” said the representative.  “Fundraising initiatives, though a topic of discussion amongst the WUSC community, have not been at the forefront of focus this academic year.” 

The WUSC Local Committee and Staff Advisor are attending the WUSC International Forum in January 2020. The forum exchange ideas and learn more from other institutions about their approaches to navigating the SCI. 

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