What’s the latest on tuition hikes?
The CAQ have brought forward a bill that would effectively double the tuition behind paid by out-of-province students, with costs jumping from $9,000 to $12,000. Tuition for international students —already exorbitant— will be raised to a “minimum” of $20,000.
This is a move that will push more university students further into debt, and will increase the poverty and precarity experienced by thousands of students in Quebec. When they raise tuition hikes for out-of-province and International students, they set precedents and open the doors to raise the tuition for everyone. This doesn’t start or end here: this is one new chapter in a decades-long struggle over access to education.
In response, McGill and Concordia administration are pledging to offer bursaries of up to $4,000 to out of province students, to make up for the extra costs tacked on by the CAQ’s proposed tuition hikes. At Concordia, these bursaries will only be applicable to students with a B average or higher, and are not available to international students (who will be paying a minimum of $20,000 a year). McGill says that “approximately 80%” of Canadian students from outside Quebec coming to McGill will be eligible, but has yet to explain what criteria separate those students from the other 20%. The fight for fair and affordable education is not over.
Why is the fight against tuition hikes far from over?
1) We continue to reject the CAQ’s proposed tuition hikes, which are still in full force, bursaries or not. Bursaries are a surface-level cover-up that do not address the root of the problem: the tuition hikes themselves. We reject the gutting of our public institutions and we remain dedicated to building a world where education is a right and a social good, not a limited and exclusive commodity to be purchased.
2) The bursary system proposed by the university does not include international students. We refuse to abandon international students in our struggle for just, accessible, free education for all. The targeting of international students is a manifestation of xenophobia and nationalism, and creates a culture which is unwelcoming to and creates barriers against migration. Universities must be open to all. We demand that Concordia and McGill include international students in the distribution of bursaries.
Currently, French and Belgian students are exempt from international student fees, meaning they pay the same tuition cost as out-of-province students. Quebec is considering adding Switzerland to this exemption, but not Senegal, Benin, Congo, Guinea, Niger, Haiti, the Ivory Coast, or any other French-speaking nations. The racism on this one is pretty blatant. We demand that Quebec expand its student mobility agreement to include all twenty-seven francophone nations and that all universities in the province lobby for and honor the expansion of this exemption.
3) The bursary system is based on grade point averages, meaning many students will not be eligible for bursaries and will end up paying the increased tuition fees. We reject the false meritocracy embedded in the grade-based bursary system. Students with higher grades are not more deserving of the right to education. We demand that McGill and Concordia revise the conditions of their bursaries to apply to all out-of-province students.
4) The bursary system is not a guaranteed long-term solution. Concordia has already announced that they are $70 million dollars in debt, and have implemented hiring freezes and mandated budget cuts in every department. McGill, too, risks losing up to $94 million of its annual revenue if enrollment drops and has already implemented a hiring freeze and paused infrastructure projects. Banks have already raised the university’s long-term borrowing rate. Given this context, we question the sustainability of the bursary program. We demand further transparency from McGill and Concordia on how they will fund and maintain the bursary program.
Next year, if the universities suddenly announce they can’t maintain the expense of the bursary system, we’re right back where we started– except without the momentum we’ve already built, and with the tuition hikes already established. NOW is the time to fight for free education.
So what’s next? STRIKE STRIKE STRIKE!
Similarly to workers strikes, student strikes represent a withholding of academic labour and a disruption to the university and the economy at large. Student strikes have been a winning tactic in recent and historic mobilizations against tuition hikes— including the 2012, 2005, 1996, and 1986 student strikes which all successfully blocked proposed tuition hikes.
Strike mandates are in effect for several departments, and more GA’s with strike motions on the ballet are scheduled for the coming weeks. Following a 1 day strike on November 30th, the movement for student strikes is continuing to build. Thousands of students will be striking from January 31-Feb 2.
Students have won in the struggle against tuition hikes before, now is our time to do it again.