Commentary  Students and administration should fight deregulated tuition

Hyde Park

Last month, the Quebec Ministry of Education announced the deregulation of international tuition for students enrolled in engineering, management, pure sciences, mathematics, computer science, and law. Previously, these tuition fees were set by the Ministry of Education; universities are now free to charge whatever they want. The McGill administration has announced that it supports the deregulation and that it will be raising tuition for the 2009-2010 school year.

McGill has not yet given specific numbers, but they have said that the increases will be around eight per cent – meaning most international students will have to pay well over $1,000 more in tuition. And the University will likely implement more tuition increases for the next few years. SSMU and the McGill International Students’ Network (MISN) strongly oppose the actions of both the Ministry of Education and the McGill administration.

This increase will result in significant hardship for international students currently enrolled in the aforementioned programs. Many students who came to McGill expecting to pay one price will now see their tuition increasing significantly every year. McGill has stated that they don’t think international students will be unfairly burdened, and that more financial aid will be created. But the reality is that that tuition increases will not be revenue neutral. McGill’s policy is that only 30 per cent of tuition increases will be put toward new financial aid, leaving 70 per cent for students to pay.

The McGill community prides itself on its diversity, and increases in international student tuition threaten this unique aspect of our campus. Currently, many international students from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds come here to study. While we may still have many countries represented, entrance to McGill will increasingly be determined by ability to pay instead of ability to study, and the student body will suffer.

Despite the fact that international students will most directly be affected by these changes, everyone has reason to worry. If McGill has its way, it will become more “profitable” to have students in certain faculties and students with certain residency statuses. Creating these incentives will likely have an affect on enrolment and recruitment strategies, which would effect the education milieu for everyone, not just international students. Moreover, deregulation of fees for one group of students could be a first step to more far-reaching deregulation. For a long time, McGill has advocated massive tuition increases, and the administration would be supportive of further regulatory changes that would allow them to charge every student more.

Deregulating and increasing fees is the wrong way to go about solving university underfunding. The money raised by these increases will be little more than a drop in the bucket to the University, but will result in tangible hardship for students. Decision makers in the James Administration Building and in Quebec City need to show political leadership and stand up for a large scale public reinvestment in universities that will improve quality of education.

SSMU is organizing a rally in Quebec City in conjunction with other student associations to speak out for accessible, publicly-funded educaiton during the Sommet de la Francophonie, where heads of state from around the world will be present.

If you’re interested, there will be a free bus leaving the SSMU building at 1 p.m. this Friday.