Friday, April 13, 2012
My friend Brendan Steven, newly elected president of Conservative McGill and one of the founders of the Prince Arthur Herald understands economics! If only the students in the streets could be so responsible. MONTREAL — With cries of bloquons la hausse, a small army of Quebec students has taken to the streets in recent months to protest tuition increases. Jean Charest’s government has announced it will raise tuition fees in the province by $325 per year for five years, to a total of $3,793 per year in 2016-2017. The change will take Quebec from having the lowest tuition rate in the country to … still having the lowest tuition rate in the country. Student activists have orchestrated a series of strike actions in opposition to the tuition increase. The name of the game has been hyperbole: accusations that Charest seeks to implement “American-style” privatized education, and claims that accessibility for low-income students will be ravaged by the changes. Quebec’s artificially low tuition rate is a failed policy. It has done nothing to increase accessibility, the raison d’être of rock-bottom tuition, and has only left Quebec’s universities poorer than their national counterparts. The province’s 2011-2012 budget frames the university-financing crisis in stark terms. Post-secondary education in this province was underfunded by $650-million dollars in 2010, up from $373-million in 2002. Less money is spent on operations in university budgets than in any other province in the country. Collectively, Quebec’s universities accumulated a deficit of $483-million in 2009. In response to this crisis, the Charest government has proposed a financing plan to inject provincial universities with $850-million in new revenue by 2015-2016. As part of this new plan, students are being asked to pay a fair share of their own education. They certainly don’t pay their fair share now. In 2008-2009, a paltry 12.7% of total university revenues came from tuition fees. Even after the supposedly apocalyptic increases starting this year, that number will increase only to 16.9%. By the time that five-year period ends, Quebec students will be paying the same cost they were paying in 1968.