The provincial government’s decision to extend medicare to international students will help attract and retain students from other countries, says the New Brunswick Student Alliance.
The New Brunswick departments of health and education announced Friday that any international student who has a valid study permit and proof of full-time study at a provincial university or college is eligible.
Robert Burroughs, executive director of the New Brunswick Student Alliance, said he is pleased with the government’s decision.
“They were having to take private insurance to cover even the basic health care coverage including the extended and dental,” he said.
Medicare will also cover the dependents of international students while they are studying in the province.
According to Burroughs, the group went to the government and said international students shouldn’t be left out of the medicare program simply because they are from another country. He said they should be treated the same as Canadian-born students.
For him, the announcement means international students will feel they are welcome here and Burroughs believes it will encourage them to stay after graduation.
Easing the burden
International student Jimy Beltran agrees. Beltran, from Caracas, Venezuela, is vice-president of student life of St. Thomas University Student Union.
He said the announcement is good in two ways: it helps international students with the financial burden of private insurance and it gives New Brunswick an advantage to attract students for the long-term.
“I’m very happy,” he said. “The past month has been like limbo.”
“It feels like a statement of welcome. You are not just someone who is coming to study and leave, you feel that New Brunswick really wants you to stay here. I think that is an important factor,” Beltran said.
Education costs ‘incredibly expensive’
Health care is priority for students who study internationally, he said.
“If something happens to you here, who do you rely on?” he said. “We are technically visitors to an extent.”
The president of the University of New Brunswick Student Union, Herbert Bempah, is also an international student.
The Ghana, West Africa native said the student union fully supports the decision to provide medicare to international students.
“At the moment, international students pay double the [education] fees domestic students pay — this amount is incredibly expensive for myself and my colleague international students,” he said in an email statement.
He said access to provincial medicare will lessen the impact of expensive tuition costs and serve as recruitment tool for the province in attracting international students.
“It is important that our community is made up of diverse cultures, perspectives and ideologies,” said Bempah. “We are very happy to see this program come to light and believe it will benefit not just international students, but the province as a whole.”