News | Ministry of Education may punish McGill for MBA tuition hike

Provincial government's cuts could amount to over $3 million

Tensions between the province and McGill have flared again, as Quebec’s Ministry of Education threatened massive funding cuts this week, which would penalize McGill for tuition hikes to its MBA program. Education Minster Michelle Courchesne said the ministry would axe McGill’s funding by $30,000 for every student made to pay increased MBA tuition.

The $30,000 figure is composed of two provincial grants to the University: $19,000 that contributes to McGill’s operating budget, and $11,000 that the Desautels Faculty of Management receives per Quebec student in the program.

Although Courchesne’s press secretary Tamara Davis says the cuts will “not necessarily” affect other faculties, the $19,000 is earmarked as funding for the school at large.

All $11,000 in funding the Desautels Faculty of Management receives for Quebec-resident MBA students will also be slashed. However, Peter Todd, Dean of the faculty, said today that McGill had already “proposed that we would give back the $11,000,” in an earlier agreement with the province.

Of the approximately 350 students enrolled in the MBA program, “over 50% pay fees as a Quebec resident,” Todd wrote in an email. The ministry’s planned funding cuts will amount to at least $3,325,000 out of McGill’s general funding, based on these numbers.

However, Davis also said the ministry was concerned about tuition hikes for non-Quebec students.

“They have to respect the rules set forward for every category of students, whether they be from Quebec, out-of-province, or foreign,” she said.

“If they don’t, we would look at that, too,” she said, although she denied that the ministry was considering tying funding cuts to non-Quebec MBA students.

Todd said he has no plans to back down on tuition costs. “Our plan is to continue with the self-funded model,” he told The Daily.

“We have for many years operated in an environment of underfunding for the program and indeed for the entire university. We will need to be even more creative to do so going forward.”

Todd denounced the ministry’s plan for funding cuts as punitive. “Their view is that other McGill students should pay for this, and we don’t think that is correct or appropriate,” he said. “Unfortunately it is likely that the MBA will continue to be subsidized by other students at McGill, a situation we believe is unjust and needs to be changed.”

Davis sees the funding drawbacks as a way to level the playing field and prevent McGill from gaining undue advantage by charging more for tuition. Referring to the cuts in funding to McGill, Davis said, “This way they don’t come out with any additional funds…or any additional advantage.”

The cuts are roughly commensurate with the increase in MBA tuition announced last fall.

Tuition for the business program in the Desautels School of Management is pegged at $29,500 per year for the coming Fall 2010 semester, for all students. It currently stands at $1,700 for Quebec residents and over $20,000 for international students.

Courchesne has long argued that the spike in MBA tuition violates the province’s educational accessibility policy. The minister sent a letter to McGill Principal Heather Munroe Blum in January scolding her and the school for contravening “the very principal of accessibility.”

However, Todd said that he had not been informed of the Ministry’s recent decision before it became public, and that it came as a shock. “The first I saw of it was in Le Devoir,” he told the Daily.

He also denied knowing details of the ministry’s plan: “It’s not one-hundred per cent clear to us…. Since we haven’t seen anything in print, we’re flying a little bit blind.”

Davis said that the ministry has tried to be in contact with the McGill administration. “We sent them two letters and they did respond…they haven’t really complied at all,” she said.

Munroe-Blum could not be reached for comment.

Courchesne has portrayed the battle as a fight between the Quebecois public and a selfish McGill.

“Why should Quebeckers accept that we give [McGill] the same amount of money [as other universities] while they are asking $30,000 from individuals?” she said recently. “I don’t think it is a good use of public funds.”

This morning Tamara Davis said she found it “weird,” that McGill needed so much money for its business program, noting that McGill’s well-regarded medicine and law programs are able to operate without increasing tuition. “Maybe they need to pay for professors,” she offered.

Davis and Courchesne have also pointed to other world-class business schools in Quebec that charge the government-mandated tuition of approximately $2,000. The MBA program at McGill is the only one in Quebec to appear on the Financial Times’ 2010 list of the top 100 MBA programs in the world. McGill is ranked 95th, last among the six Canadian schools on the list.

More on this topic:
McGill-Quebec Imbroglio – Jan 25, 2010
MBA fees jump to $29,500 – Sep 19, 2009