An international student association at Concordia University wants to “break free” from the educational institution’s insurance plan, which costs nearly $1,400 a year, a peak in Canada. She estimates she could save millions if she turned to the private market.
Posted at 8 am.
“We currently pay $1,344 a year for our insurance. This is the highest number in the country. With a private company, we estimate that we could reach US$ 1,096 a year”, summarizes Bhanu Kiran, an international student who is also president of the University’s Graduate Student Association (GSA).
With his peers, he estimates that the association could save up to 4 million in two years, if we take into account the surpluses generated by the university each year. “In concrete terms, what we are asking for is simply to have the freedom to choose our insurance plan. There are interesting offers and we deserve to have access to these options”, insists Mr. Kiran, which represents around 8,000 members, of which around 5,000 are foreign students.
However, his association regrets the attitude of the direction of Concordia University, which, according to him, is not very “open” to discuss this issue. “It’s quite frustrating because often you don’t feel like there’s a will. They are used to postponing meetings, or even canceling them”, insists the president of the GSA.
The association claims to have “tried for years to solve the problem” but says it has faced a layoff from the university, which would not want students to drop out of its insurance plan. In recent weeks, the GSA has also hired an attorney, Mr.and Félix-Antoine Michaud, in order to study the legal options available to him.
“In Quebec, there is a particularity that is not found everywhere in Canada. This is Law 32. And this law gives associations a unique role in representing students, as well as increased powers. This is what allows them to say to management: the insurance plan, we will manage it”, summarizes M.and Michael.
He claims to have a mandate to “take all necessary steps” to enforce his clients’ rights before the courts, but specifies that “we’re not there yet.” “What we are asking the University from now on is not to use surpluses, which are calculated in millions. This money actually belongs to the students”, insists the lawyer, who specializes in labor relations, among other things.
A referendum with a strong majority
Last March, while discussions were not yet moving forward with the administration, the GSA organized a referendum among its members to assess their interest in withdrawing from the university’s insurance plan. The result: nearly seven out of ten students then voted to withdraw the school’s plan.
A meeting is scheduled for Thursday to present the result of that vote to the Concordia University Board of Governors. “This meeting should, in principle, be a formality, but what we hear is that they could contest the right of students to wear their own cape and therefore to assert their rights,” worries Bhanu Kiran.
“I don’t see what argument they could use ad vitam æternam to block the student union in their efforts. They must respect the democratic will that has been expressed,” adds Ms.and Felix-Antoine Michaud.
Concordia wants “a long-term vision”
joined by The press, Concordia University spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci confirms that a “request for proposals” was made by the GSA to “choose a separate insurer”. She maintains that the establishment’s management will continue to “work” with the student association and its members “to resolve their issues regarding the plan”.
We want to take a long-term view, with the aim of ensuring predictability and price stability across various groups of students.
According to the spokesperson, withdrawing the GSA from the university’s insurance plan, however, would have “no financial impact” for Concordia, “since all proceeds are used for insurance purposes, including to address exceptional individual cases not handled by the regime,” she says.
The office of the Minister of Higher Education, Danielle McCann, simply points out that universities have “full autonomy” in terms of insurance in relation to international students. In this specific case, “however, we invite the parties to dialogue”, says Valérie Chamula, the minister’s press officer.
Amount billed annually to students of the Concordia University Graduate Student Association for the institution’s insurance plan