News | McGill waiting on direction from government to refund tuition fees

Students grow impatient with University’s lack of communication

McGill has yet to confirm student refunds on the tuition fee increase following its official cancellation last week by Quebec premier Pauline Marois.

In August, McGill billed students the first $254 installment of the tuition hike planned by the Liberal government. Tuition was set to increase by $254 every year for seven years.

McGill students were required to pay their tuitions bills by August 31. Students receiving financial aid could request to defer payment.

According to Le Devoir, other Quebec universities also billed students the tuition fee increase this summer.

In response to the September 4 election of the Parti Québécois (PQ), which promised to cancel the tuition hike, McGill published a “Statement on changes in Quebec tuition policy.” In the statement, the University said it was waiting on “official directives” from the government before updating student bills or beginning a refund process.

McGill did not email students about the statement, which was published on the Student Accounts page of the University’s website.

The PQ government officially cancelled the tuition hike by ministerial decree on September 20.

McGill Director of Internal Communications Doug Sweet told The Daily, “we have yet to receive official confirmation, but we expect that student accounts will be credited with the difference between what they paid in tuition and the new fee structure soon after we do.”

Sweet could not confirm that refunds would be offered. “Refunds may be issued, but I don’t have details of the process,” he said.

Matthew, a U3 History student who wished to be identified by first name only, told The Daily, “The government, the day they were elected, said the hike was over. It has been almost a month and the school is still waiting for so-called official word.”

“Is this supposed be a secret thing? Are we going to find out one day that the money reappeared in our account?” he said.

McGill’s slow response has affected the start of the semester for students like Matthew. “It would be important to actually have the cash back, as someone who pays my own tuition, so I can finish buying my textbooks,” he said.

SSMU VP External Robin Reid-Fraser told The Daily that the student union “will be asking the University about [the tuition refund] next week if it still looks like they aren’t doing anything about it.”

U4 Middle East studies student Robert Bell said he is not satisfied with SSMU’s response to date. “They are not responding adequately to the issue, but when have they ever? It is a shameful abdication of their responsibility to ensure the economic welfare of their constituency,” he said.

McGill’s operational budget will be unaffected by the change in tuition in 2012-2013 because the PQ government has promised to maintain expected levels of funding by making up the difference caused by the cancellation of the tuition fee increase, according to Sweet.

“The longer view remains cloudy and we’ll have to wait for the summit on higher education to get a clearer picture of where we’ll stand,” said Sweet.

The PQ government is planning a summit on higher education this fall. Strategies for funding higher education, such as the indexation of tuition fees to inflation, will be discussed.

Newly-appointed Higher Education Minister Pierre Duchesne is expected to invite major student federations Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec, and Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante to the summit, as well as Table de concertation étudiante du Québec, SSMU’s official negotiating representative.