International Students Fees for BC MSP on the Rise

On August 1, the BC Government announced that, despite MSP premiums being eliminated as of Jan. 1, 2020, international students will continue to contribute to BC health care coverage.

Under the updated system, effective Sept. 1, 2019, all international K-12 and post-secondary students will pay a monthly health-care coverage fee of $37.50. On January 1, 2020, with the elimination of MSP premiums for British Columbians, international students will see monthly fees for health-care jump to $75 per month or $900 per year.

Health Minister Adrienne Dix states that this is not a new fee for students. “For almost 30 years, B.C. has provided international students with provincial health coverage, while asking them to contribute a reasonable amount to help cover those costs. This updated payment method for international students continues that commitment.”

However, this is not how it feels for international students, who face ever-increasing tuition fees with no legislated, protective cap such as the 2% rate that domestic students have. Tuition fees for international students were raised from 8-23% around the province as of May 1. Similarly, the $75 health-care fee recently announced will be an increase of 100% over the existing fee described by Dix.

An international student within Selkirk’s Associate of Arts program states:

“I find it extremely unfair to make international students, who have no or little financial support from the government, pay for the lost revenue of eliminating MSP fees for the rest of the province. We have to pay so much already just to seek a better education in Canada.”

 Kim Pham, Secretary of the Selkirk College Students’ Union, also expresses dismay at targeting international students in this way.

“As a soon-to-be-graduated student, I am excited to have received health care in B.C., but I feel terrible knowing that only international students will be charged double in order to operate this system. I am concerned that this, along with increased tuition fee, will create negative impacts on the lives of B.C international students as well as long-term FTE ratio in B.C.”

Another Selkirk student in the Business Administration Program expresses that the targeting of international students to subsidize BC systems (such as health care and post-secondary education is unfair.

“You can’t be against flat taxes as user fees for some people and not for others. Either MSP is wrong and healthcare is paid through employment or it isn’t. But singling out groups because they are perceived as okay to charge is unfair and discriminatory. I have already budgeted my expenses for this whole academic year – this is now an extra $900 I have to suddenly come up with.”

Tanysha Klassen, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students, explains that though this fee increase is unfortunate, tuition remains the contributing factor of unfair fees facing students.

“Many other provinces require international students to be a part of private insurance companies, so at least students can continue to access our public health system. Though this fee continues to widen the gap between what domestic and international students are paying, as well as contributing to the unpredictability of fees, it is ever-increasing and unregulated tuition fees faced by international students that remains a primary concern.”

As of 2015, BC’s post-secondary institutions reported hosting 113,095 international students province-wide and almost one-third of all international students in the country. The strategy for international education has not been updated since 2012.