Repeal causing financial headaches, forcing some Red River College students to seek jobs

BY Zoe Mills

Anastasiia Mitropolenko, 20 (right), and Sarah Li, 19 (left), are international students studying Business Administration at Red River College./ZOE MILLS


On March 29, Red River College’s Business Administration students Anastasiia Mitropolenko, Sarah Li and Thamyris Salguerio received the same email from the college saying that, as international students, they would no longer be eligible for free universal healthcare.


This news comes after a decision made by the provincial government to repeal universal health care for international post-secondary students on Sept. 1, 2018.


“I was like, really, you’re going to throw this on me, too?” said Mitropolenko, 20, who moved to Winnipeg from Kharkiv, Ukraine two years ago. “That was the first time I heard anything about [the repeal]. I was so upset.”


A 2016 study from Statistics Canada says that 10 per cent of university and college students in Manitoba are international students.


“I never thought of [free healthcare] as a benefit of being an international student in Canada,” said Salguerio, 30.


Mitropolenko and Li agree that free universal healthcare wasn’t what drove them to study in Canada.


“My boyfriend came to Winnipeg to work and I followed him,” said Mitropolenko. She said she didn’t plan on going to college in Winnipeg but she heard good things about the college after taking a language development course at Red River College’s Language Training Centre (LTC).


Li moved from Brazil half-way through her final year of high school. She finished Grade 12 at St. James Collegiate in Winnipeg, then went to Red River’s LTC to improve her English skills.


“I was just looking to leave Brazil,” said Salguerio.


Salguerio studied photography at Centro Universitário Senac in Brazil and was drawn to Canada after hearing about a Winnipeg photography workshop lead by two Brazilians. She then decided to take a break from photography to go to school in Winnipeg.


“University is way cheaper in Brazil,” said Salguerio. “I thought, if it’s more expensive here, it’s probably higher quality.”


Mitropolenko said a health care plan will now cost her about $3,000.


“Some people say, ‘oh $3,000, that’s not a lot of money’, but it is for me,” said Mitropolenko.  “I don’t have a job.”


Mitropolenko said she will only be able to afford private health care if she can get a part-time job. As a full-time student, she doesn’t know if she will have time for one.


Li said she thinks the language barrier makes it hard for international students to get a part-time job.


“In most jobs, you have to talk to customers all the time so obviously the [employer] would want you to be easy to understand,” said Li, 19.


“I’m worried that will be a problem when I graduate and start looking for a real job, too,” said Mitropolenko.


Salgeurio, Li and Mitropolenko are set to graduate in 2019.