According to a recent survery released by McGill’s MBA Student Association, 70 per cent of MBA students believe the cost of their program is at or below a reasonable level. When even students are standing up for tuition hikes, that’s when the province needs to stand down.
It’s unclear what the QuebecMinistry of Education intended to accomplish when it slapped McGill with a $2 million penalty for switching to the self-funded model for its MBA program, but the gesture comes across as little more than a symbolic slap on the wrist. The Tribune has voiced its support in previous editorials for the change in the MBA program, but the reasons are worth revisiting. Prior to last year’s drastic increase, a $10,000 deficit between operating costs of the MBA program and funding from tuition and government subsidies for it was offset by pilfering funds from the tuition paid by McGill’s undergraduates. Even after the recent tuition increase, MBA students—who often have worked for several years before entering the program and can expect salaries around $80,000 when they graduate—will still be paying far less in tuition than the national average of $40,000. It makes sense for MBA students, who consider the high cost of their education as a worthy investment in their future, to pay for their own education. Since switching to the self-funded model and raising tuition to $27,500, the program has gone from 95th to 57th in the Financial Times’ rankings of international business schools. Also, with increased revenue, McGill has been able to offer better financial aid, claiming to offer students an average of $12,000 to offset the increased costs related to the switch to a self-funded model.
Despite the increase—or, rather, by increasing tuition—McGill has been able to cater to the interests and needs of students far better than the pandering provincial government has cared to. While McGill has increased the amount of finanical aid given to MBA students, Quebec now considers McGill MBA students ineligible to receive aid. If the province really considers the recent increase a burden to students, it should help them shoulder the burden, not make it even worse. Quebec’s displeasure at the tuition increase seems more of a punishment for McGill’s daring to defy provincial orders than an act in defence of accessible education.
The fine follows through on former education minister Michelle Courchesne’s promise last spring that Quebec would reduce McGill’s subsidies to keep it at the same level of total funding as other MBA programs in the province. While this is the overall goal of the self-funded model—to offer higher quality of education without relying on subsidies from governments and non-MBA students—the $2 million shortage for this year will directly affect the students, necessarily subtracting from the quality of the program or the quantity of student aid offered by the university. Holding back the quality of McGill’s MBA program for the sake of arbitrarily maintaining the lowest MBA tuition in Canada (when the MBA students themselves support the increase), and at the expense of other students, isn’t a strategy for making post-secondary education accessible. Especially in light of the recently announced tuition increases across the board, the $2 million shows the Quebec government to be more interested in empty gestures than in fulfilling the responsibilities of effective government.
McGill should stay the course; students should continue to make their voices heard; the Quebec government should reconsider its intentions and priorities, and should ultimately back down.