Montreal students rally against proposed tuition hikes for out-of-province students

A march held downtown saw students from Concordia University and other institutions demanding a reversal of the changes slated for fall 2024.

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Montreal student associations are protesting the Quebec government’s proposed tuition hikes for out-of-province students attending English universities. 

A march held downtown saw students from Concordia University and other institutions demanding a reversal of the changes slated for fall 2024, the CityNews Montreal reported.

Proposed tuition changes

Citing a LaPresse report, the Coalition Avenir Québec is expected to partially backtrack on its October decision, increasing tuition for students from the rest of Canada by 33 percent, from approximately $9,000 to $12,000. However, international students are anticipated to face a minimum annual tuition of $20,000.

Concerns and opposition

Graduate student Vishal Shah from Concordia University expressed concern, stating, “International students are paying almost two to three times higher fees than the local students. It’s not at all acceptable; it will demotivate the students who are coming to Canada.” 

Other students echoed these sentiments, emphasizing the potential impact on future generations.

“I don’t think it’s a fair option,” said Gokul Doss Solaimalai, another graduate student from India. “Some politics are going on between the government, but still they should appreciate the people that come.”

Concordia student Quiana also expressed solidarity with those impacted by the tuition hikes. She pointed out that being born in Quebec exempts her from the immediate effects of the hikes, but she highlighted concerns about broader consequences such as budget reductions, class cuts, and larger class sizes. 

Quiana also voiced her belief that it’s unfair for out-of-province students to be adversely affected solely based on their place of birth.

The proposed tuition hikes have sparked widespread opposition, with a petition garnering over 33,000 signatures presented in the National Assembly on Tuesday. The petition urges the government to cancel the tuition increase targeting English-language universities, redirecting the funds to support French universities.

Higher Education Minister Pascale Dery defended the measures, citing financial and linguistic objectives. However, students, backed by academic coordinators and faculty members, vow to continue protests until the government reconsiders its position.

“Any measure that would put the very existence of a university at risk, or weaken it to the point of impairing it, must be excluded from the discussion,” the heads of Université de Montréal, Université Laval, Université de Sherbrooke, Polytechnique Montréal and HEC Montréal said in a previous open letter published in La Presse via Global News.

According to the leaders, there is a portrayal of students from outside Quebec as “threats to the prosperity of the French language, freeloaders, and cash cows.” Instead, they argued that these students should be recognized as contributors, similar to Quebec students, who enhance the excellence, quality, diversity, and relevance of our institutions.

“The real issues — the place our universities, both French and English, should occupy in Quebec’s development and its positioning in the great concert of nations, and the resources we want to devote to this grand project — remain unresolved,” the university leaders stated.

Potential impact on enrollment and revenue

English universities, including McGill and Concordia, anticipate a significant drop in enrollment and revenue, while Bishop’s University in Quebec’s Eastern Townships expressed concerns about its survival. 

According to a report from CTV News, the Quebec government has rejected a proposal from McGill and Concordia universities to maintain current tuition fees for out-of-province students in exchange for making French-language courses mandatory for undergraduates. The proposal aimed to counter the government’s plan to double tuition for non-Quebec students. 

After a meeting with Legault and Déry, the government deemed the offer insufficient. While acknowledging it as a step in the right direction, Déry’s office stated that a specific exception would be made for Bishop’s University due to positive francization efforts. 

“We’re staying the course on our measures, but we’re going to find a specific solution for Bishop’s. We see the francization efforts in a positive light; for us, they’re complimentary,” the statement read.

The government closed the door on maintaining current tuition fees for McGill and Concordia, indicating that the plan to increase French courses was inadequate. 

The universities had also sought to keep fees unchanged for Canadian students outside Quebec and explore alternative solutions for proposed international student tuition hikes. 

McGill and Concordia had pledged to enhance French-language support for students and increase French-as-a-second-language courses, along with creating incentives like scholarships for language learning.

The finalized plan is expected to be submitted to the Council of Ministers, with an announcement anticipated in the coming week.

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos has been a professional journalist for five years now. She has contributed and covered stories for premier Philippine dailies and publications, and has traveled to different parts of the country to capture and tell the most significant stories happening.

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Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos has been a professional journalist for five years now. She has contributed and covered stories for premier Philippine dailies and publications, and has traveled to different parts of the country to capture and tell the most significant stories happening.

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