The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) unequivocally condemns the provincial government’s decision to deregulate tuition for all international students pursuing post-secondary education in Québec. Announced on May 17th by Education Minister Hélène David, this change will allow individual universities to raise fees for international students at their own discretion (instead of the provincial government setting them) beginning in the Fall 2019 semester. Moreover, rather than international tuition fees from across the province being collected and then redistributed among Québec universities, each institution will be able to directly pocket its own fees. Selected programs were deregulated in 2008; this allowed McGill to dramatically increase tuition in faculties like Engineering, where international students currently pay nearly 40 thousand dollars per year – roughly twice the amount they would be paying in the Faculty of Arts.
At May’s Senate meeting, Principal Fortier hailed the government’s decision as a major win for McGill, emphasizing that revenue to the University will increase. While this is technically true, that increase will come at the expense of financial accessibility for international students, an unacceptable tradeoff. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the additional revenue thus generated will benefit the rest of the student community. McGill has a history of skimming student fees earmarked for Student Services and Athletics in order to mitigate deficits in other, unrelated areas of the institution; while this specific practice should be fazed out over the next two years, the government’s recent decision will provide a new pool of student money for McGill to spend at its discretion, whether on student-related resources or not.
At its core, deregulation is an attack on the financial accessibility of education. Our university administration should be meaningfully prioritizing our wellbeing, rather than increasing the financial burdens faced by students. Our provincial government should be working to curb exploitative student fees, with the ultimate goal of making education free and accessible to all. September will bring both a provincial election and the start of a fresh academic year, and as a student community, we must be prepared to stand firmly against deregulation. If you are interested in organizing around this issue, contact the VP External at firstname.lastname@example.org, and watch for updates on the SSMU External Affairs Facebook page.
The 2018-2019 SSMU Executive Team