Province backs down from fine on McGill’s self-funded model

MBA tuition set to increase to $34,750

McGill administration reached an agreement with the Quebec Ministry of Education two weeks ago, permitting the university to charge almost $30,000 over the provincial tuition cap for the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program.

Beginning next year, McGill will make several changes to the program, giving it an international business emphasis that qualifies it as a specialized program under Quebec law. Specialized programs are allowed to set their own tuition.

McGill previously charged $2,069 per year for its MBA, the provincial limit for tuition. In September 2010, the university moved the program to a self-funded model and raised tuition to $29,500. Tuition was increased to $32,500 this year, and Peter Todd, Dean of the Faculty of Management, told the Daily in March that McGill intends to continue to raise tuition to the Canadian average of roughly $37,000. Tuition is scheduled to increase to $34,750 by fall of 2012.

Todd was unavailable for comment, but Don Melville, Director of the MBA and Masters programs for the Faculty of Management, said in an email to The Daily the changes were made “to reinforce the program’s strong international focus.”

According to Melville, McGill’s MBA program has already been recognized by the Financial Times as first in Canada in the international makeup of its professorial corps and the international mobility of its graduates.

The changes have ended a two year tête-a-tête with the provincial government that included a $2,011,719 fine in March for violating Quebec’s educational accessibility policy.

In an August 19 press release, Minister of Education Line Beauchamp said the changes to the program “considered the requirements I made known last spring.”

Accessibility still remains a concern for students. The Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), a provincial student lobbying group and the Post Graduate Student Society (PGSS) issued a joint statement denouncing the government’s decision the same day as Beauchamp’s press release.

“By accepting the privatization of the program, [Quebec Premier] Jean Charest set back Quebec fifty years, when it was the size of the portfolio and not the intellectual merits which determined access to university,” said FEUQ president Martine Desjardins. “We will not let him do it.”

Beauchamp said McGill was not an exception, “as other Quebec institutions already offer programs of a similar status.”

PGSS VP External Mariève Isabel said most Quebec universities also offer a public MBA program along with specialized programs.

“I do not know any other example in Quebec of a university offering only private MBAs,” said Isabel.

“[McGill] can have all the specialized MBAs they want,” she continued, “as long as they keep it accessible to students as well as in a public system. McGill is a public university, it’s not a private university, and we want it to stay that way.”

Pat Tenneriello, president of the MBA Student Association (MBASA), said he thinks the majority of MBA students support the tuition increases, and are in favor of the new changes.

“We welcome the fact that there is no longer uncertainty over the program and its fate. So I think on the whole we’re happy with this,” Tenneriello said.

“[McGill administration] are the ones who know what’s best for the program, and we welcome this decision by the government to let them run the program the way that they see fit,” he continued.

Tenneriello was disappointed, however, that the agreement did not resolve MBASA’s dispute with the provincial government, which withdrew financial aid grants from Quebec students in the program when tuition was first raised above provincial levels.

Melville said McGill is increasing its financial aid contribution to MBA students, including internal and external scholarships amounting to more than $12,000 in funding per student. Melville also said that more than 80 per cent of MBA students received a scholarship this past year.

“That’s helping us,” said Tenneriello, “but it doesn’t appear that there are bursaries based on financial merit. They’re mostly academic and experience-based scholarships. So there’s still no bursary to fill the void for financial aid, which is a void that should be filled by the government.”

Tenneriello said MBASA will be working with PGSS this year to help lobby the government to resume supplying grants for Quebec students. PGSS’ tuition policy calls for completely free tuition for all graduate students in all programs, but Isabel said they still plan to meet with MBASA in the coming weeks.

“What we can try to do is to find common ground,” said Isabel. “We want to work together with them.”

However, Isabel pointed out that the changes do not consider prospective students who are deterred from the program because of the self-funded model.

“A lot of [MBASA’s] students are in favor of the changes, so we do not want to oppose that if they are happy with the changes. We are not necessarily opposed to them having a more specialized program if they wish,” Isabel said.

“[But] all the students that have been excluded from registering to the program because of the cost would have something else to say about this raise,” she continued.

Tenneriello said that, from a student perspective, “there won’t be a whole lot of change.” For example, a ten-day international trip that is now mandatory was previously an optional part of the program.

“By being able to say McGill is an exception, [Quebec is] saving face and stopping other programs from doing the same. And McGill is a happy camper because they get to continue moving forward with the self-funded MBA model,” he said.