Commentary | It’s all connected

How tuition fee increases are part of a larger issue

As you are probably aware, tuition in Quebec is slated to increase by $1,625 over five years beginning this September. Students across the province are mobilizing against the hikes with increasing enthusiasm, and thousands are preparing to walk out of classrooms for an unlimited student strike, likely beginning in the next few weeks.
Many McGill students seem on the fence about it all – international and out-of-province students especially, since $325 per year is proportionately a much smaller increase than it is for Quebec residents. Compared to schools of similar reputation in the U.S., McGill tuition for Quebec students may seem minimal, and can lead to the question: why are they so upset about this anyway? And, why should we non-Quebec residents care about and support their movement?
I’m here to argue that fighting a tuition hike in Quebec by supporting a province-wide student strike could be your chance to help make the world a better place, for everybody.
This may seem far-fetched, but I bet anyone reading this has some cause they spend time and (possibly) money championing. Whether environmental sustainability, women’s rights, food security, or primary school education for children in the Global South, they are all big, important issues that deserve all of that time and attention. This tuition hike would harm these issues by hampering much student research on them, given that the fee increase would deny 30,000 people post-secondary education. Furthermore, tuition hikes are part of a global trend towards economic liberalization and private sector involvement that has created the majority of the world’s problems.
I aim to convince you that these issues are all related.
Just as people shouldn’t be living in poverty or hunger, and our planet shouldn’t be warming at unnatural rates or losing huge amounts of biodiversity, nor should students pay more money from our own pockets on an education that the province is perfectly capable of funding.
The Charest government and McGill administration tell you that there simply isn’t enough money to pay for universities any other way.
What they don’t tell you is that the $620 million they tout as a “funding deficit” is actually  calculated to be what Quebec does not gain in tuition compared to other provinces. Nor will they tell you that, since 2001, the Quebec government has cut taxes in a way that makes it lose roughly $5 billion of revenue per year. Nor will they tell you that thousands of students will be prevented from accessing university, making it harder to obtain a good job in this increasingly post-secondary-dependant economy.
The tuition hike is part of a trend of government austerity measures in which progressive taxation is reduced, the powerful minority increases their profits, and ordinary people must pay for previously available services such as health care and education. It is the same system of economic liberalization that created unequal trade deals with the Global South, trapping vulnerable citizens in cycles of poverty; the same system that treats the planet’s resources as market commodities, rather than the foundations to our very existence.
There are a lot of scary problems in our world. Many of them happen far away such that we can do little to make an impact.
But the tuition hike is here right now, and this is our chance to stop it and begin to change the world.

Robin Reid-Fraser is a U2 Environmental Studies student. She can be reached at rkeifra@gmail.com


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