Union accuses SFU in Burnaby of gouging international students

Union accuses SFU of gouging international students

International students at Simon Fraser University are being gouged on their health insurance premiums, says the Teaching Support Staff Union.

Derek Sahota, of the TSSU, says international students at SFU are paying, on average, more than double for their health insurance than students at other post secondary institutions in the province like the University of British Columbia, Kwantlen Polytechnical University and the University of Victoria.

In the fall of 2013, there were more than 4,000 international students enrolled at SFU, representing about 16 per cent of the school's total student population.

Sahota says the $353 international students pay for health insurance provided by is almost triple the cost of the university's previous health insurance provider, which charged $126 per student.

"We have clear evidence of a public institution who forced their students into the most expensive option when students would have chose a different option," says Sahota. is a Canadian company that specializes in insurance for students studying or working abroad, as well as teachers, faculty and staff.

International students enrolling at SFU must pay for a private insurance plan to cover their health care needs until they are eligible to enrol in the BC Medical Services Plan.

But Tim Rahilly, SFU's associate vice-president, students, says many international students don't buy medical insurance on their own.

"We have a duty of care for our students and believe that providing a mandatory medical insurance plan for all international students is the best way to ensure their well-being," say Rahilly.

Sahota says even if students have their own insurance, it's difficult for them to opt out of the school's plan, and they're automatically re-enrolled in it year after year. Over the course of a student's career at SFU, that can add up to thousands of dollars.

He wants the university to give some of that money back.

"These students are owed more than an apology," says Sahota. "They are owed a refund of the money that SFU has charged them."

Rahilly says the issue will be discussed at arbitration meetings with the TSSU scheduled for December.

"The welfare of our students is an important issue," he says.


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