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Deregulation of programs results in tuition increases for international students

The upcoming school year will mark the first during which tuition  will be deregulated in the Faculties of Management, Science, Engineering, and Law for international students.

As a result, student in applicable criteria will be charged upwards of $35,000 in tuition for the upcoming 2014-2015 academic year, an increase from the approximate $15,000 charged in the 2007-2008 year.

The costs of all programs at McGill are based on a set fee for Quebec-resident tuition, which is then supplemented by out-of-province and international student fees. In regulated programs, such as Arts, all supplemental international tuition fees are directed to the Quebec government, which then redistributes these fees across Quebec universities based on university-student population ratios.

For deregulated programs, the provincial government gives McGill the jurisdiction to determine the amount of supplemental tuition charged and allows the university to keep the additional money from this tuition.

Vice-Principal (Communications and External Relations) Olivier Marcil said the model for deregulated programs of distribution has disadvantaged the university, as McGill has the largest international student population in Quebec. Since regulated fees are redistributed based on overall student population, most of the supplemental fees paid by McGill international students are portioned to other Quebec universities.

“This is problematic because it means this money doesn’t go toward our students [for regulated programs], but to the education of students in other Quebec universities,” Marcil said. “McGill does not get to keep that extra tuition.”

The decision to deregulate certain university programs was made in 2008 following a compromise by members of the Conference of Rectors and Principals of Quebec Universities (CREPUQ), who advocated for it on the behalf of its member universities to the provincial government. The decision was followed by a multi-year transition period during which the university gradually retained a greater proportion of the supplemental tuition.

“In years one to five, the university will retain an incremental 20 per cent per year of the supplement, so that after five years, 100 per cent of the supplement paid will be retained,” the 2012-2013 Annual Report on the Financial State of the University reads.

Since 2008, this deregulation has enabled McGill to charge more than the previously regulated supplemental tuition amounts, which have resulted in the tuition increases that international students in those programs have faced over the past few years.

The Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Secretary-General Jonathan Mooney said that due to deregulation, there is a concern that tuition increases could result in a skewed student population.

“Students’ primary concern is that increased tuition […] reduce[s] accessibility to education,” Mooney said. “Increasing tuition leads to a drop in enrolment for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Mooney, along with Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Vice-President University Affairs Joey Shea, raised the concern through a question at the November 2013 Senate meeting.

In response, Provost Anthony Masi said these tuition increases are offset by increased financial aid for students.

“Our need assessment parameters consider each student’s tuition costs in their program of study, so international students in de-regulated programs who demonstrate financial need receive the highest offers of aid,” Masi said.

According to Marcil, many resources will be available for students requiring financial aid, despite deregulation.

“McGill currently allocates 30 per cent of net new tuition revenues directly to McGill’s own internal student aid program,” Marcil said. “At the time of admission, all students, regardless of geographic origin, are invited to apply for entrance financial aid.”

Although future plans to deregulate more programs are unknown, according to Marcil, the provincial government is conducting further research on changes to tuition.

“There is currently a Chantier—a government-appointed committee created following last year’s summit on higher education—investigating the future of international students’ tuition, including deregulation,” he said.

Principal Suzanne Fortier echoed the sentiment in a recent e-mail to the McGill Tribune.

“Some decisions from the government are expected towards the end of the year, and we do not yet know if a decision regarding deregulation will be brought forth at that time,” she said.

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