Commentary | Your tuition is on the rise

On March 17, the provincial government announced in the 2011-12 budget its plan to increase base Quebec university tuition by $325 per year for every student for the next five years, in order to “catch up” to the national average.

Base Quebec tuition has been increasing $100 per student per year since 2007. Because every McGill student pays this base fee with any additional status-based fees added on, everyone suffers when Quebec tuition rises. McGill has also deregulated supplemental fees for international students in six programs – with hopes to deregulate tuition fees for all programs – and increased tuition in its MBA program from roughly $2,000 to $29,500 in the last year.

All forms of tuition increases need to be stopped. If we fail to act now, there will be no ceiling in place to prevent tuition fees from skyrocketing in the future.

In the U.S., for example, between 1964 and 1979, tuition fees only increased by $300, to just under $600 on average for public universities. Starting in the 1980s, however, tuition fees increased by roughly $100 per year, reaching $4,000 in 2006.  In 2009 the average annual tuition for a public U.S. university was around $7,000, and in 2010 the average cost of tuition and fees for private U.S. universities was over $26,000, up from $20,000 in 2006. Even more startling, university in the U.K. was free until 1997, when a £1,000 fee was imposed. This fee was tripled in 2004, and is set to be tripled again starting in 2012.

Even today, as a university education is fast becoming the minimum requirement in the job market, governments are enacting policies that limit the ability of people to pursue degrees. Exclusivity in post-secondary institutions does not breed quality. Enrolment is increasing along with tuition in order to raise revenues, potentially off-setting many improvements in quality of education and services. Under this model, our student body will grow larger, more affluent, and less diverse, and face increased competition for face-time with professors and for research opportunities.

Students should not have to pay for the Quebec government or McGill administration’s financial mismanagement. As more universities worldwide continue to regard higher education as an investment, we, as students, need to remind them that education is more than that – it’s a right. Tuition increases are not set in stone, and students around the world have recognized this fact. In February, four students began a month-long hunger strike outside the U.N. Development Office in Caracas, which involved them sewing their own lips together to demand funding for public universities. In the summer of 2009, German students succeeded in stopping tuition fees from being levied on their education. We need to add our protestations to these movements, and demand that education continue to be accessible in Quebec.

With the lowest tuition rates in Canada, Quebec has the potential to be a national leader in establishing policies that endorse accessible and progressive education. To achieve such a system, current students must prevent the Quebec government and university administrators from starting the province down the slippery slope of tuition hikes that have burdened students in the U.S. and U.K.

We elected a SSMU executive dedicated to the student movement and intent on fighting tuition increases. We must hold them to their promises and get informed, involved, and join with other students in a global resistance movement to revolutionize education policy.

In September 2012, all tuition will increase by $325, and by 2017 the base Quebec tuition will have almost doubled. We have 17 months to act to stop these hikes from turning over 6,000 students province-wide away from university.

See tuitiontruth.ca for more information on tuition increases and how to get involved.


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