December 10, 2023

The student unions at Montreal’s pair of English universities are the latest to slam Quebec’s plan to nearly double out-of-province tuition, calling it “undemocratic and discriminatory.”

In a rare move, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) and the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) issued a joint statement Thursday condemning the hike.

“This policy is the latest in Quebec’s long history of attempts to divest from post-secondary education,” the unions wrote. “It is a decision that was made without consultation with the three major Quebec English-speaking universities, their student unions, or affected students.”

Last week, the Legault government announced that tuition for undergraduate students from other provinces will rise to $17,000 from $8,992 beginning next year. It will also collect a first $20,000 paid by international students and reinvest that money in French-language universities.

Quebec Higher Education Minister Pascale Déry says the new rates better reflect what it costs to educate a university student, adding that most international and out-of-province students leave the province after graduating.

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The increase would disproportionately affect Quebec’s three English-language universities. McGill, Concordia and Bishop’s universities attract more students from other parts of Canada than their francophone counterparts — and more money.

The student unions also pointed out that English universities will bear the burden of the hikes and changes to tuition will put students in an “undesirable financial situation.”

Click to play video: 'Fallout continues over Quebec’s tuition hike, students planning protest'

Fallout continues over Quebec’s tuition hike, students planning protest

As criticism mounts, Quebec Premier François Legault has stood by the plan. He argues taxpayers should not subsidize out-of-province students and called the influx of anglophone students a threat to the survival of the French language.

But the students unions argue the hike will “price out the poorest out-of-province students, saddle students with further debts, and require students to work even more during their studies to afford their education.”

“All of which help turn post-secondary education into a luxury item, exacerbate issues of elitism within academia, and limit how much students can benefit from their education,” the CSU and the SSMU said.

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The student unions are the latest to condemn the tuition increase. Aside from English-language universities, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante and federal ministers have all voiced concerns about the plan.

McGill also announced Thursday it will shelve a $50-million investment to help its community learn French. The funding was going to be used for additional programs and services over a five-year period.

Meanwhile, both student unions say they plan on holding town halls next week for students to discuss and organize about the hike.

with files from Global News’ Felicia Parrillo, Annabelle Olivier and The Canadian Press

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