Commentary | In defense of tuition hikes

We need to be realistic about closing the funding gap

First off, I would like to state that the Quebec Ministry of Education’s decision to penalize McGill for increasing their Masters of Business Administration (MBA) tuition fees is an unfortunate move. McGill’s decision to increase its annual tuition from a meagre $3,400 to $29,500 has been an effort to close a funding gap that has made the MBA program rather uncompetitive internationally. How big is this funding gap we are talking about? Around $10,000 per student, to be exact. In order to sustain the current MBA program, the administration has to take money away from other programs and departments within McGill. Call me selfish, but this indirectly hurts my undergraduate experience at McGill.

Then comes the matter of reputation. As a future MBA hopeful, it is discouraging to see that McGill’s reputation as a top-tier university does not carry into its MBA program. The Financial Times’ 2010 rankings put McGill’s MBA program in 95th place, behind Toronto, York, and Alberta. Internationally, McGill’s program is not able to compete with other public universities such as Oxford, the Univeristy of California Berkeley, and the University of Michigan – whose tuition rates are $40,000, $41,680, and $45,189 respectively for local students. With an average starting salary of $103,000, McGill MBA graduates tend to earn enough money to pay back whatever college loans they accumulate pursuing their degree, and as such, the $30,000 sticker price does not worry me. Instead, I am glad that McGill’s administration is taking steps to make their MBA program competitive with elite schools such as Harvard.

An MBA education is an investment that individuals must be prepared to make financial sacrifices for. The benefits of graduating from a top-tier MBA program far outweigh the costs of paying a higher tuition and having to take out loans. McGill’s two-year MBA program moved up 38 spots to take 57th place in the Financial Times’ 2011 rankings after the tuition hikes were implemented; this cannot be a coincidence.

This brings me back to the bigger question of why I see so many undergraduate provincial students opposing fee hikes of a meagre $100 a year. You cannot expect McGill to maintain its academic prestige and compete with world class universities such as Berkeley, Michigan, and Oxford while the Quebec government maintains its tuition freeze. It would be one thing if the freeze was working, but Quebec trails behind other provinces when it comes to university enrolment figures and in the proportion of young people holding a university degree.

Charging provincial students a meager $3,000 a year in tuition fees for their undergrad and MBA programs is unrealistic. Out-of-province Canadians and international students are paying the price for this funding gap. Meanwhile, McGill’s teaching quality, infrastructure, and international prestige is getting worse.

Our classes are getting bigger, financial aid is being cut back, and the McGill administration is finding it harder to fund student clubs and services. A modest increase in tuition for provincial students will not deny education to anyone; it will only improve McGill’s international reputation and our student experience.

Murtaza Shambhoora is a U1 Political Science and Economics student. He can be reached at murtaza.shambhoora@mail.mcgill.ca.


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