On several occasions in the past weeks, members of the McGill administration have reiterated the University’s commitment to international student tuition fee deregulation. Effectively, tuition deregulation means that McGill will become less financially accessible to international students, who constitute over 25 per cent of the student population. Previous deregulation has seen annual tuition rise by $17,000 for some programs. This is completely unacceptable if McGill at all claims to be acting in the best interests of students.
While McGill is advocating for tuition deregulation, the policy is ultimately decided on by the provincial government. Tuition for international students in Quebec is partially comprised of a supplemental fee, most of which is given to the government and redistributed among the province’s universities. Though the administration claims it would not want to raise tuition to levels that would prohibit international students from attending McGill, the increase that occurred after tuition was deregulated for six programs in 2008 indicates otherwise. By continuing to advocate for tuition deregulation, the administration proves itself to be an institution that views education as a commodity to be sold to students for maximum profit rather than a public good.
Currently, McGill is one of the more affordable options for English-language education available to international students. Opening the door to tuition increases has a direct impact on the accessibility of a McGill education, not only by shutting out students who cannot pay higher tuition but also by leaving those who can barely scrape by with massive amounts of debt. McGill has deflected the issue by emphasizing improvements to its bursary program; however, most bursaries prioritize Canadian students, and are only available to a very limited subset of applicants. The notion that bursaries are within reach of every international student who cannot afford tuition is a delusion that in no way addresses the underlying problem of rising rates.
By considering students as sources of income to offset deficits, the University betrays its increasingly neoliberal nature. An example of this is McGill’s push to increase the number of graduate students, who attract higher government subsidies. McGill claims this is to increase the quality of undergraduate education, but has not matched the growing enrolment numbers with teaching assistant positions or workloads. In addition, having said absolutely nothing against the Liberal government’s budget cuts and austerity measures, the University has instead successfully lobbied the government for tuition increases for French students. This shows that it is all too willing to allow the weight of budget cuts to fall on students.
If the past is any indication, students cannot idly sit by and naively expect the government and administration to stop putting the burden of ‘fiscal responsibility’ on them. International tuition deregulation is a direct result of Quebec’s austerity regime, which McGill fully supports. We must actively pressure the administration to change its stance on tuition deregulation through whatever means we have at our disposal, whether it be letters, protests, or other forms of direct action, and join the Quebec-wide struggle against austerity. Fight for your interests, because the University has shown that it won’t.
—The McGill Daily Editorial Board