Facing a $3.9-billion budget deficit, the Quebec Premier Jean Charest’s ruling Parti Liberal du Quebec (PLQ) is proposing to start charging tuition for CEGEPs across Quebec. Calling the proposed fee “modest,” Finance Minister Raymond Bachand introduced the idea on Saturday during what was dubbed the government’s pre-budget meeting.
Xavier Lefebvre Boucher, the president of the Fédération etudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ), is skeptical that the fee’s impact on students will be as negligible as Bachand indicated. Boucher pointed out that the last time the government raised university tuition in 2006, officials used the same word to describe the fee increase, which amounted to roughly $500 per year by 2012.
“I think ‘modest’ has a different meaning for them than it does for us,” said Boucher in French.
Currently, many CEGEPs are publicly funded and charge no tuition fees. The two-year post-secondary program provides vocational training for prospective skilled workers, and CEGEP diplomas are required for many specialized programs at universities across Quebec.
Charlotte Guay-Dussault, spokesperson for the fledgling provincial party Quebec Solidaire, said that given the government’s history of raising education costs, she wouldn’t be surprised if subsequent increases in tuition should follow this initial fee, making post-secondary education less accessible to Quebeckers.
“With the increase in university rates, there are about 6,000 people a year in Quebec who can’t enrol,” said Guay-Dussault in French. “I think in the CEGEP it’ll be just about the same thing.”
Guay-Dussault said that rather than imposing tuition fees on students, the government should “raise taxes on the rich” to rectify its financial problems.
Charest intends to balance the budget by 2013-2014, and has also said he wants to create 210,000 skilled jobs by 2012. Boucher stated that these two long-term objectives of the PLQ are contradictory and unfeasible, and added that the Liberal majority would pass the proposal, should it be tabled at the National Assembly.