Quebec’s new budget policy will boost funding to the provincial university network by $1.5 billion over six years and give universities the power to set tuition rates for international students. The policy, announced on May 17 by Quebec Higher Education Minister Hélène David, provides McGill University with a 9.4 per cent increase in funding for and allows universities to keep the total sum of tuition fees.
In a statement published on the organisation’s website on June 6, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) condemned the provincial government’s deregulation of international tuition, citing concerns that the increase in international student fees will likely impact the financial affordability of McGill.
“This change will allow individual universities to raise fees for international students at their own discretion,” the statement, signed by the 2018-2019 SSMU Executive Team, reads. “[The budget] increase will come at the expense of financial accessibility for international students, an unacceptable tradeoff.”
In an email to The McGill Tribune, Vice-President (VP) External Marina Cupido questioned the exclusionary impact of the new policy on McGill’s student body.
“Raising fees places a crushing financial burden on many international students, and narrows the pool of those who can even contemplate a McGill education in the first place, meaning our community will skew [toward the] more privileged and less diverse,” Cupido said.
The Quebec Government’s current tuition policy regulates the gap between domestic and international tuition fees and redistributes the difference among the universities. According to SSMU, the new freedom for administrations to charge their own international rates is a step in the wrong direction.
“Our provincial government should be working to curb exploitative student fees, with the ultimate goal of making education free and accessible to all,” SSMU wrote in its statement.
The SSMU Executive Team compared the new policy to provincial deregulations that took place in 2008, which gave McGill the jurisdiction to determine supplemental international tuition fees and allowed the university the keep the additional revenue. Such changes saw international tuition increase by an average of nearly $20,000 per student in the Faculties of Management, Engineering, Science, and Law.
While higher tuition rates would provide McGill with a substantial increase in funding, the SSMU Executive Team questions whether the additional funding will, in fact, be directed toward Student Services or whether it will instead be used to alleviate the institution’s financial burdens.
In an online FAQ, the Office of the Provost and VP Academic announced the new policy changes and attested to the likelihood of a resulting increase in international tuition rates. According to the Office, however, financial resources will be available to incoming students following the new budget allocations.
“McGill offers competitive awards and financial aid to qualifying international students and we will continue to do so,” the Office’s statement reads. “Moreover, we anticipate being able to expand these programs in coming years, with greater freedom to allocate university revenues to institutional priorities.”
Domestic tuition in Quebec will not be affected by the new policy, and will remain the lowest in Canada. The tuition rates for Fall 2019 onwards have yet to be determined, but incoming students in Fall 2018 will continue to pay the fees set under the current policy for the duration of their programs.
It is unclear how the new policy changes will be received on campus but Cupido stressed the need for student bodies to take swift action to prevent future deregulations.
“As a student community, we must be prepared to stand firmly against the deregulation,” Cupido said. “If this latest decision goes unopposed, it’s likely that this would embolden future governments to deregulate domestic tuition in years to come.”