At a Senate meeting held on Jan. 21, Provost Anthony Masi stated that McGill is pursuing deregulation of student fees for international students in the remainder of the regulated faculties. The Faculties of Engineering, Management, Science, and Law have already been deregulated, and, as a result, have seen international student tuition increased by an average of nearly $20,000 per student. The proposed deregulation of the remaining faculties could help McGill to recover from continuing rounds of budget cuts administered by the provincial government. Although the tuition increases that would result from deregulation might drive away some international students in the short term, deregulating all faculties is a necessary step towards upholding McGill’s prominent standing in the long run.
If McGill does deregulate, students must be consulted and made aware of the future prices of tuition and how the additional revenue will be spent. This requires both a structured plan and transparency on the part of the administration, who must make it clear how the added tuition will benefit both current and prospective students. In his response at the Senate meeting, Masi stated that the amount of tuition increases depends on careful market assessments and on the implications that deregulation would have on McGill’s position as Canada’s most international university. Details about the actual tuition increase and its implementation are still absent from the discussion. If the university decides to move forward with deregulation, information regarding the amount of tuition increases and the plans for its allocation within the university’s budget should be made widely available to students.
Under a regulated system, the government determines the amount of supplemental tuition charged to international students. The provincial government then accumulates this surplus and redistributes it among all of the province’s public universities in the form of grants. McGill is harmed by this system, which reallocates funds from internaional student tuitions based on overall student population, and results in most of the money going back to larger Quebec universities. With deregulation, McGill is given the right to determine international students’ supplemental tuition, and the university is able to keep this surplus instead of funneling it back to the government and receiving only a fraction in return. Deregulation therefore has the potential to benefit McGill more than any other university, since McGill has the largest proportion of international students.
While McGill’s significant international student population means that it could benefit greatly from deregulation, it also means that McGill has the most to lose. Substantial increases in tuition could deter international students from applying, which would in turn harm McGill’s reputation as a diverse and international university.
Should the remaining faculties be deregulated, actions must be taken to minimize the losses to diversity and the restricted financial accessibility of the university. This requires providing additional means of support and resources for international students, and ensuring that the newly generated revenue is being spent on visible improvements to the quality of education at McGill that will promote the university’s future success.
In response to concerns about the financial strain that a rise in tuition would place on international students, Masi and Principal Suzanne Fortier have both cited McGill’s comprehensive bursary and financial aid programs. McGill does, indeed, provide a significant amount of financial aid to its students, allocating 30 per cent of net new tuition to student aid programs each year. Naturally, though, Canadian students are prioritized in the allocation of aid. Moreover, international students of middle incomes, according to Canadian standards, who do not qualify for need-based aid may suffer the most if tuition costs become too burdensome. Deregulation will most likely deter some international students from attending McGill, but the administration should use this as an incentive to reach out to international students in other ways. Improved access to financial advising, work study programs, and student loans could all help to mitigate the burden of raised tuition on international students.
Prospective students don’t only consider tuition when deciding whether or not to attend McGill—students, both international and Canadian, care about the facilities, the number of different classes that are offered, the quality of professors, and many other factors. By deregulating, McGill can hopefully gain the additional revenue that it needs to keep attracting the best students from around the world, while also providing the best possible services and opportunities for current students. Deregulation might drive away some international students, but it is a necessary step in ensuring McGill’s financial viability going forward.