There’s been a lot of news about the Quebec Tuition protests. So much news that it’s actually become international news. Which is a pretty big deal in Canada, where it usually feels like very little to nothing gets noticed by anyone outside of our country.
If you haven’t read, heard, or seen something about the protests, the quick summary is that the Quebec government wants to raise tuition by $325 a year for 5 years. This will make the average tuition $3,793 (an increase from $2,168). Quebec has, for years, heavily subsided tuition to keep it that low for in-province residents. In fact, Quebec’s tuition is significantly lower than any other province in Canada. With the current tuition cost, an undergraduate student pays approximately 13% of the costs of attending university (the government covering the other 87%). The tuition increase means that students will now pay almost 17% of the costs (and that would be assuming the costs don’t change over the next few years).
One of the first articles I read on the situation was Quebec students must pay their share by Brendan Steven, a Political Science and Canadian studies student at McGill University (a university in Quebec). I though he did an excellent job of laying out a reasonable explanation as to why the tuition increase is necessary and reasonable and not something students should be protesting.
One of the next articles I read (almost two weeks later), is also by a student, Sandy White, attending Laval University (also in Quebec) to study law. This one, Numbers aren’t with students, why also on the side of this increase is reasonable, is much more argumentative, as it places most of the blame on students from “faculties that have opted to strike are not those known for their thorough grasp of concepts such as how inflation affects the price of goods and services; how to pay top teachers when universities are burdened by their own heavy debt loads; and the need for balanced state budgets.” And it kind of goes downhill from there.
In even more recent news the Quebec Premier, John Charest, offered to spread the tuition increase over 7 years instead of 5, which works out to an increase of about $232 a year. However, at least one student group, C.L.A.S.S.E, has turned down the offer while two others are debating.
Personally, it won’t affect me in any way if the tuition goes up or down. But, I have to say I side with the students who are against the protests and for the increase. While I love the idea of free tuition and access for everybody, those two don’t go hand in hand. Tuition, as much as we would like to believe, is not the single, or even the largest, problem facing students who may or may not consider university. And while I’m for supporting society, by helping to fund tuition for all students through taxes, I still think there’s a lot to be said for students to have to pay some amount of money and therefore have some vested interest in their education.
Either way, I think it’ll be interesting to see what happens with this strike. I’d love if this strike allowed more people to start discussing how we fund universities. And what the goals of universities should be. And what changes are needed to the system (both internally and externally – like funding). And if people could finally move away from having some tunnel-vision on tuition and start examining the real barriers to accessing higher ed.