A new policy on Quebec tuition fees was presented to the Post-Graduate Students’ Society Council Thursday night by VP External Ryan Hughes. The policy calls for the elimination of tuition fees for graduate students who are Quebec residents, and a freeze on current tuition levels for out-of-province and international graduate students.
Hughes, who has been working on the policy for about ten months in collaboration with a writer-researcher and members of the PGSS External Affairs committee, said the proposed freeze on out-of-province and international tuition would be corrected for inflation based on the Consumer Price Index.
“The previous PGSS tuition policy wasn’t a policy on tuition fees…it was a policy on the  tuition freeze,” said Hughes. “It was mandated to me back in April that a new tuition policy should be reviewed. It took quite a few months.”
The 13-year freeze on Quebec tuition expired in 2007, at which point the Liberal government instituted a policy that increases tuition $100 per student per year for five years. In the preamble to the new policy, the PGSS notes the Quebec government’s interest in “significantly raising tuition fees in 2012” when the current policy expires.
The preamble also describes how the Conférence des recteurs et des principaux des universités du Québec, of which McGill is a member, has advocated for an increase of $1,500 over three years, ending in 2015.
SSMU VP External Myriam Zaidi said Hughes used the existing SSMU tuition policy, which was adopted four years ago in light of the 2007 defreeze, as a model for the new PGSS policy.
“Their policy was not changed since 1994,” said Zaidi. “He looked at our [policy] and found that it was a good one. Ours had a long-term vision.”
Zaidi said the SSMU policy differed from the PGSS policy in that SSMU is opposed to tuition fees for all students, not just Quebec residents.
“If you stand for the elimination of tuition for Quebec residents you should do so for out-of-province and international students as well,” she said.
The SSMU policy does not refer specifically to graduate student tuition – only to tuition fees in general – something Zaidi was supportive of.
“[McGill Principal Heather Munroe-Blum] said she would increase tuition for undergrads in order for free tuition for grads,” said Zaidi, “so I’m glad they didn’t specify tuition only for grads.”
The PGSS policy recognizes that “there are alternative sources of governmental revenue that can be used to fund higher education instead of raising tuition fees,” and that “the burden of financing tertiary should not fall upon Quebec resident graduate students, who are among the most economically vulnerable groups in Quebec.” Zaidi was also in favor of these features of PGSS’ new policy.
Regarding student consultation concerning the new tuition policy, Hughes said a formal survey was disseminated to graduate students regarding tuition fees.
“It was not scientific, just informative,” said Hughes.
When the policy was debated in council, Hughes said concerns where raised as to whether the policy would bind the hands of the PGSS when it came to negotiations over tuition fees. He responded to these concerns by clarifying the purpose of the policy.
“A policy is a starting point for negotiation; it lays out student desires,” said Hughes. “Students don’t want to have to pay much, or anything at all.”
With the new policy, Hughes said the PGSS will “have a point to place ourselves in the negotiation, and so we can reach a decent compromise.”