Commentary  Deregulation is not the answer

Provincial funding woes cannot be fixed with higher tuition

In 2008, the Quebec government deregulated international students’ tuition fees for six programs: Applied Science, Mathematics, Engineering, Computer Sciences, Management, and Law. This deregulation is part of a six-year transition that will end in 2014, which will ultimately see a decrease in the amount of governmental subsidies that cover international tuition.

International students at McGill pay an average supplement of over $10,000, charged in addition to Quebec tuition for each student – currently set at roughly $2,000 for most programs. The provincial government receives 92 per cent of this supplemental fee, which it then redistributes, based on total student population, over all Quebec universities. The revenue of the Ministère de l’éducation, du Loisir et du Sport (MELS) is then redistributed to all universities regardless of the number of international students; students at universities with a large international student population like McGill pay more in supplemental fees than the subsidies the university receives. That is why MELS chose to deregulate fees – so that McGill can charge what it chooses to make up for this funding inequality. But there is no restriction stipulated for such a freedom. There is no procedure for the hikes, and ultimately no student consultation about this entire process. Moreover, international students should not have to bear the burden of funding universities if the government cannot redistribute tuition dollars in an equitable way.

In-province Quebec tuition has already risen by $100 a semester and will continue to climb. By 2012, unfrozen Quebec tuition will have risen by at least $500, affecting the tuition that not only in-province students pay, but also out-of-province Canadians and international students. A recent study commissioned by the Quebec government found that these increases will result in a province-wide drop in enrolment of at least 6,000 students. The Principal’s Task Force on Excellence and Diversity has found that McGill lacks students of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds: if McGill wants the “best and brightest” from around the world, hiking tuition fees only means that admission will be increasingly limited to an increasingly smaller segment of privileged students.

International, Quebec, and Canadian students must stand together to protest rising tuition fees for international students and the upcoming increase of tuition in general. Let the university know that students should not have to pay for the province’s underfunding of universities: voice your concerns at Heather Munroe-Blum’s town hall this Friday at noon in the Cyberthèque, and rally with fellow students and workers for your right to education at the Provincial Day of Action on March 12. McGill students will meet at 11:30 a.m. in front of the Shatner building on Saturday to head downtown.