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Quebec government ignored advice to ditch out-of-province tuition hikes

Concordia University is among the three English-language universities in the province that will be affected by the Quebec government's plan to hike tuition.  (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Concordia University is among the three English-language universities in the province that will be affected by the Quebec government's plan to hike tuition. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Quebec is sticking with its plan to impose a significant increase in tuition for out-of-province students, ignoring advice from a government advisory committee in the process.

The Comité Consultatif sur l'Accessibilité Financière aux Études — a committee that studies issues regarding education access — raised several concerns about the upcoming tuition hike in a Jan. 19 letter to Higher Education Minister Pascale Déry, which was obtained by CBC News.

Starting this fall, Canadian students living outside of Quebec will see their tuition go from about $8,992 to $12,000.

The province had initially pushed to raise tuition to $17,000 but essentially lowered the price tag in exchange for a commitment from English-language universities to ensure 80 per cent of their non-Quebec Canadian students and international students demonstrate a Level 5 oral proficiency in French by the end of their undergraduate studies.

International students will see their minimum tuition fees set at roughly $20,000.

According to the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) government, the increase in tuition and the obligation to learn French are part of an effort to bolster French in the province, especially in the Montreal area. A good chunk of the extra money is to be used by the government to boost funding for French-language universities.

In its letter, however, the advisory committee questions the CAQ government's rationale for the severity of the increase and says it would like to have more data to understand it. It says the move isn't justified and "risks compromising access to quality education and to deprive society of potential talents."

"The committee invites [the government] to re-evaluate these costs to preserve the equality of opportunity and to prioritize an inclusive and diverse education environment," the letter reads.

McGill University, expected to be one of the institutions hardest hit by the policy, issued a statement, highlighting that it has asked the ministry "repeatedly" for data justifying the move.

"We would welcome a response," the statement reads.

Concordia University also issued a statement, saying the committee's opinion "adds to the chorus of voices that have already noted their negative impact, including the mayor of Montreal and the Chamber of Commerce."

The university urged the Quebec government to take the committee's views seriously.

By the looks of things, it will not.

And that's at least partly due to the fact the committee submitted its opinion four days after the deadline the higher education minister had set. A spokesperson for the minister told CBC News that it's moved on to the next step in implementing the new tuition model and pointed out the fact that the committee did not respect the deadline.

The spokesperson also said the committee's opinion didn't seem to take into account the government's reasons for hiking the fees: addressing the imbalance in funding between French-language and English-language universities and and minimizing the extent to which Quebecers fund the education of non-Quebecers.