News  McGill-Quebec imbroglio

Minister of Education reopens MBA tuition hike debate

The McGill administration and the Quebec Ministry of Education, Leisure, and Sport (MELS) are feuding again over the drastic tuition hike announced this past fall for the university’s MBA program.

Tuition for MBA students is set to increase by 1,663 per cent to $29,500 in September. In a letter obtained by Le Devoir and reported on January 21, Minister of Education Michelle Courchesne chastised McGill Principal Heather Munroe-Blum, writing that the University’s planned tuition increase “contravenes the very principle of accessibility.”

Since the letter was made public this past Thursday, McGill administrators have been coordinating a media blitz to counter the minister’s now-public remarks.

In an interview with The Daily, Dean of Desautels Faculty of Management Peter Todd denied the minister’s accusations of a lack of accessibility.

“We committed to the idea that we want to make the program more accessible, and the way to do that, we think, is to have people who truly can afford to pay for the program pay for it,” he said. Todd added that most MBA students have five or more years of employment in the private sector when they enter the MBA program, and that their salaries tend to increase dramatically after graduation. He further noted that $4,000 per student of the new tuition would be set aside for student aid.

Post-Graduate Students’ Society president Daniel Simeone pointed out the $4,000 earmark is consistent with an existing University-wide policy mandating that 30 per cent of net tuition increases be allocated to student aid.

While acknowledging that the MBA students’ association supported the tuition hike, Simeone said that he “did have significant discussions with MBA students who…expressed concern that the change would negatively impact Montreal and Quebec students, for whom the program [provides] high managerial skills that get applied in the non-profit sector in Montreal.” He added that many Montreal non-profits have a high level of managerial skill thanks in part to the current accessibility of McGill’s MBA program.

On Friday, the Montreal Gazette editorialized in favour of McGill, in which it accused Quebec of being “cowardly” and not having the courage to increase tuition in the face of student protests. The editorial mirrored comments articulated in an internal Board of Governors email obtained by The Daily, as well as those made by Todd during his interview.

Responding to criticism that the tuition increase for Quebec students would decrease the number of in-province students in the program, Todd noted that applications from Quebeckers are up 40 per cent this admission season as compared to last, from 15 to 21. The number of Quebec applicants cannot be independently verified until enrolment data is released later in the year.

The Board of Governors internal memo indicated that Munroe-Blum met with the minister Friday, and that the principal’s office had been in communication with the office of Quebec premier Jean Charest. When asked about the outcome of Munroe-Blum’s meeting wih the Minister, the administration provided no comment.