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SSMU, admin disagree on Quebec budget

The Quebec government announced last Thursday that it would contribute an extra $250-million over five years to postsecondary education, garnering divided opinions from administrators and student groups.

In a press release by the Conference of Rectors and Principals of Quebec Universities (CREPUQ), McGill Principal Heather Munroe-Blum heaped praise on the government. The report stated that – including other sources – Quebec postsecondary institutions will receive $453-million more in 2008-2009 than in 2006-2007.

“The confirmation of additional resources from federal transfers for postsecondary education is excellent news, as is the announcement of a supplemental government investment of over $50-million,” Blum wrote.

But not everyone is as pleased with the budget report.

“It’s extremely disappointing,” said Max Silverman, SSMU VP External Affairs. “It falls well below what’s needed and what was promised.”

Silverman said the provincial government originally agreed to match every dollar universities charged in tuition with $10, but quickly forgot its promise after the tuition defreeze.

“The province would rather cut funding for students than cut taxes for baby boomers,” Silverman said.

SSMU commissioned a research project last year that concluded that the provincial government would need to provide $1.22-billion to eliminate tuition in Quebec. One half would eliminate tuition and ancillary fees, and the other would be used to alleviate the province’s funding crisis.

“[With the provincial government’s budget plan], all we’re getting is about $75 million,” Silverman said.

Blum did not mention free education in her report, but stressed that the increase in provincial funds represents an important step towards eliminating the funding crisis.

“Today’s announcements have been very well received by Quebec universities and constitute a major step in the right direction with regard to the universities’ chronic underfunding,” she said.

Silverman said Blum’s praises were a “political statement.”

“I don’t know how she could say that with a straight face.”

L’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante harshly denounced the budget in a press release, in which Hubert Gendron-Blais, the association’s communications secretary, said the only solution to drastic underfunding is mobilization.