The Quebec Ministry of Education pushed through new legislation two weeks ago that will deregulate international tuition next year by removing its tuition cap – giving Quebec universities a carte blanche to raise fees.
Noah Stewart, spokesperson for the Canadian Federation of Students – Quebec Division (CFS-Q), predicted the legislation will have a tremendous effect.
“We could see skyrocketing tuition fees,” Stewart said. “We saw the deregulation of international tuition in Ontario for professional programs, and people ended up having to pay thousands more each year.”
The Quebec government, however, will not be involved in determining the fee levies at McGill because the University’s Board of Governors (BoG) sets tuition levels. Devin Alaro, SSMU VP External, explained that realistically BoG would choose to hike fees.
“They’ve been waiting for this announcement,” Alfaro said. “McGill wants this money.”
The BoG will have free reign over the international tuition of six faculties and schools – Law, Engineering, Management, Pure Science, Computer Science, and Mathematics – charging these students more heavily than international students in other faculties.
McGill’s Media Relations Office justified the hikes in a press release, citing decreases in provincial grants for the six affected Faculties and schools. They explained that an increase in tuition would compensate for the new funding gap.
Morton Mendelson, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), stated the new legislation is not as extreme as many perceive.
“We have in general applied the same rate of tuition increase for international students – 8 per cent – as has been applied in the past several years,” he wrote in a press release. “We have not surprised our international students with an exorbitant fee increase at the last minute, nor would we.”
Despite the apparently innocent and natural incline of these tuition fees, both SSMU and the CSF-Q plan to take action against the new legislation.
“We have a mandate to fight tuition increases,” Alfaro said. “We’ve been consulting with different faculty associations, and we’re trying to get more groups on board.”
SSMU, the affected faculties, and Concordia’s Student Union – affected by the same problem – are planning multiple counter offensives, ranging from petitions to demonstrations. They will have a year to mobilize before international students feel the crunch next year when the legislation comes into effect.
“The SSMU rep on BoG [SSMU President Kay Turner] won’t be able to stop anything, so our only option would be to go outside official channels. We need to mobilize students,” said Alfaro. He will be organizing a petition and participation of McGill students at a demonstration against the tuition change to be held in Quebec City next month.
Yet the potential for blocking this legislation is minimal, both provincially and at McGill.
“It’s been hard to develop support because there’s a lot of misinformation circulating,” said Stewart.
Stewart pointed out that inflated international tuition could lead to a decrease in international students on campus, something that Mcgill proudly draws attention to for its multicultural student body.
“People don’t understand the benefits [of having international students] …There would definitely be less diversity on campuses,” Stewart said.
Nadya Wilkinson, SSMU VP University Affairs, questioned whether providing an internationally-oriented education should be a priority if it is not financially accessible to the very students that it targets.
“There’s a danger that less people could enroll than would be able to. There would be less diversity. An increase in tuition always means a decrease in accessibility,” said Wilkinson.
Principal Heather Monroe-Blum has a targeted plan for recruiting international students to McGill, which may need to be rescaled if a dramatic increase in tutition affects students’ decision to study in Quebec.
“We’re still in the early stages,” said Stewart, “but a public outcry is coming.”