Help for Ukraine: How 4 universities are aiding students in the humanitarian effort

Institutions in the U.S. are coming forward with unique ways to provide assistance to Ukrainian students.
By: | March 24, 2022
Tetiana Shyshkina/Unsplash

Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres said Ukrainian citizens are “enduring a living hell.” Cities like Mariupol have been decimated, bodies have been trapped for days in rubble, and food and water are running short in some other areas. While millions have already fled, some have remained behind to fight or can’t get out. The Russian aggression and indiscriminate bombing are taking its toll as Ukrainians endure the horrors of war and try to pick up the pieces of their broken lives.

That includes many students in Ukraine, Europe and even here in the U.S. coping with the harsh and uncertain realities that cloud their future. Despite how paralyzing and helpless the situation has been, several organizations and industries have rallied to come to their aid. Colleges and universities across the globe are among those extending whatever help they can.

In England, universities in Worcester and Nottingham are offering up buildings on campuses to help provide homes for those who’ve left Ukraine. Tel Aviv University in Israel is providing free tuition next semester and lodging for Ukrainian student refugees, and a half dozen institutions in Germany are providing everything from schooling and financial aid to jobs and mental health supports to students.

The collective effort is alive and well in the United States, too, beyond just the rallies and hosting of webinars on campuses to inform student communities of the latest on the conflict. From coast to coast, from the most simple of campaigns to provide direct money to students, to larger university-wide initiatives, institutions are stepping up. “The people of Ukraine are suffering tremendously due to the Russian invasion, and we want to provide them with educational lifelines so they know they will have a future when the fighting ends,” said President Shai Reshef of the non-profit University of the People.

So the Pasadena, Calif.-based university is giving 1,000 students from the Ukraine scholarships to study online asynchronously during its spring semester, which begins in two weeks. The extension of assistance, which is fostered through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is nothing new for this unique private institution. It serves more than 10,000 refugees globally in some of the most challenging places on the planet, such as Afghanistan and Syria. This crisis is perhaps the worst of all it has faced.

It shared the story of one of its graduate students, Kateryna Glubochenko, who has endured the shelling of Mykolaiv while pregnant and caring for another child. “I’m paralyzed with fear. As for my studies, I will try to continue them while I still have an internet connection. This is the only way for me to calm down a bit and still believe I will survive all this. Studying at UoPeople is a kind of hope for me now.”

The outpouring of support from U.S. institutions has crossed borders as well. At Yeshiva University, 27 undergraduate students went to Austria a few weeks ago on a mission to help care for refugees who arrived there, as well as offer support in distributing supplies and donations and assisting with childcare needs.

One of the most difficult challenges for those who’ve left Ukraine is finding shelter. Hampton University in Virginia announced on Tuesday that it is offering to bring 50-100 Ukrainian and international college students to not only study on campus this summer but also to pay room and board for them. Those students can remain at the university after that but would have to pay the normal fee schedule. Hampton also offered up its campus in 2019 for students at the University of Bahamas who were displaced by Hurricane Dorian. “The collective Hampton University faculty, staff and students are heartbroken because the war-torn country of Ukraine must deal with atrocities like the bombing of maternity wards, hospitals and other civilian areas,” said Hampton University President, Dr. William R. Harvey. “I think this partnership is something that can be beneficial to a great number of students and families.”

Although Ukrainian student populations in the U.S. are not nearly as robust as those from other nations, there are campuses—such as Georgia Tech University—that do have significant numbers plus faculty that need support because they can’t get money from their financial institutions. Georgia Tech has started a campaign seeking $3 million to $4 million in expendable funds to put toward housing, degree completion and other resources for its 80 students, as well as efforts to help other scholars.

A couple of weeks ago, the University of Chicago said it was providing full-tuition scholarships to Ukrainian students who were impacted by the war —both in the U.S. and abroad—with an expansion of online and in-person programming through its Center of Paris, as well as fellowship offers for some students that have had their studies impacted in Ukraine.

“The invasion of Ukraine and the devastating humanitarian crisis that is unfolding has many dimensions, including the disruption of the lives and careers of scholars and students who have the potential to contribute to new knowledge that will benefit humanity,” said UChicago President Paul Alivisatos. “UChicago is ready to expand admission efforts and support for displaced students and scholars who are impacted by the war in Ukraine and events across the region.”