As the government’s Summit on Higher Education ended on a sour note on Tuesday, the Parti Québécois reiterated its plan to implement an annual 3 per cent tuition hike per year. It also established five committees to look into ways of improving universities in Quebec.
The 3 per cent tuition hike is based on the work of economist Pierre Fortin, a former professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM). According to one of his papers presented at a preliminary summit meeting in December, the 3 per cent yearly increase stemmed from the hypothesis that average household disposable income will grow at an average of 3 per cent a year from 2012 to 2018.
“In effect, we see that the indexation of tuition to household family disposable income…either maintains the financial contributions of students at its current level or increases it slightly,” he wrote in French.
By 2018, tuition will grow by around $421 and reach $2,589 per year, according to Fortin. Conversely, a tuition freeze would have kept fees at $2,168 and diminished students’ financial contribution.
“To freeze tuition in a world where the cost of a university education increases constantly would gradually bring the system toward free education over the long term,” he wrote.
According to Fortin, a tuition freeze would lower students’ contribution to 6 per cent of the cost of their education by 2022 and 4 per cent by 2032 if the cost of a university education increases by 3.5 per cent per year.
“Evidently, someone at some point will try to bring back their contribution to 8 per cent to solve the issue of underfunding and by doing so, create another social crisis,” he wrote.
The government has not specified whether the 3 per cent increase will remain in effect beyond the 2018-2019 period outlined in Fortin’s paper.
The committees are tasked with specific mandates, each reflective of the four themes discussed at the summit.
The first committee will be in charge of drafting a loi-cadre, outlining the mandates of universities in the province, while the second will look into creating a mandate for the National Council of Universities, a new government body created during the summit. According to the government, the council’s role will mostly be advisory and will revolve around assessing the quality of higher education in Quebec.
In an interview with The Daily, Jérémie Bédard-Wien, a spokesperson for the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ), a student federation representing 70,000 students, expressed skepticism toward the government’s plan.
“We’ll see for the council. It remains to be seen who will have a seat and whether or not it will be composed of exterior members,” he said in French. “The Education Minister loves to pepper his declarations with vague promises.”
According to La Presse, the committee tasked with defining a mandate for the council will be headed by Claude Corbo, the former rector of UQAM.
The other committees will seek to improve CEGEPs across Quebec, reassess university financing, and increase student aid and bursaries.