Home McGill university administrators call for “substantial” tuition increase

McGill university administrators call for “substantial” tuition increase

by admin September 14, 2010

McGill administrators used a routine presentation before a National Assembly committee to criticize the way the province funds universities and regulates tuition.

“If the government of Quebec wants our universities to be able to continue to compete with the best universities in Canada, it must give us the tools,” Pierre Moreau, executive director, planning and institutional analysis and senior advisor (policy development) for McGill told the National Assembly’s Education and Culture committee on Sept. 7.

Administrators from Quebec’s 17 universities began appearing before the committee in mid-August. While the subject of tuition and funding came up in most of the presentations, which occur every three years, the majority focused on strategic plans, general information about the universities and the schools’ achievements in surveys and international rankings.

McGill Principal Heather Munroe-Blum called for a “substantial increase” in tuition and the introduction of different tuition rates for different programs.

“Through their taxes, low-income families finance the university education of young people from more affluent families,” she said. “Moreover, despite its low tuition, Quebec still has one of the lowest university attendance and graduation rates in Canada. It is therefore clear that accessibility to a university education for a greater number of people does not come from maintaining low tuition.”

Munroe-Blum said she’d like to see more financial aid at the institutional level to offset the impact of increased tuition for low-income students.

Université de Montréal Rector Guy Breton echoed McGill’s concerns during his university’s presentation.

“Only a university whose programs cost less than the average is able to generate a surplus of revenue over expenditure,” he said.

Breton also called for a tuition increase and differentiated tuition. According to Breton, a student in literature pays 40 per cent of the cost of their education, while a student in veterinary medicine only pays five per cent.

Breton said that if the province doesn’t increase tuition, universities will have to find other ways, such as ancillary fees, to get more money.

“Beware, if you do not give us the means, we will continue to be resourceful,” he told the committee.

But while most university heads agreed that their schools need more money, the solutions put forward by McGill and UdeM didn’t sit well with some.

“We need to train our people. We need doctors who come from backgrounds that are not rich,” said Université du Québec à Montréal Rector Claude Corbo.

He added that while some disciplines lead to higher incomes after graduation, those graduates will pay higher taxes.

Munroe-Blum also had to defend McGill’s decision to increase tuition for its Executive MBA. Tuition in the program, which will no longer receive government funding, increased from just under $2,000 to $29,500 this year.

According to Munroe-Blum, the program costs $22,000 per student, but the school only received $10,000 per student in funding and tuition. She said McGill had been paying the difference by cutting funding for undergraduate arts and sciences.

“Graduates of this MBA program, in their first three years after their graduation, make more than $100,000, $300,000, $400,000 or $500,000 per year in compensation. It just simply wasn’t fair, it wasn’t equitable.”

Under heavy questioning from Marie Malavoy, the Parti Quebecois education critic, Blum struggled to speak in French, frequently switching to English.

While questions from Government members of the committee focused on the number of PhDs graduating from McGill and the university’s distance education program, Malavoy took several opportunities to criticize Munroe-Blum’s position, saying that Quebec’s system, where the government pays the majority of the cost of a university education, was a choice Quebecers could be proud of.

McGill has also faced criticism from student groups. In a joint statement the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, the province’s largest student lobby group, and Post-Graduate Students’ Society of McGill University called for education minister Line Beauchamp to take action against the MBA tuition increase.

Beauchamp, who does not sit on the education and culture committee, took over as education minister in an Aug. 11 cabinet shuffle. She has yet to make a public statement on the increase.

Her predecessor, Michelle Courchesne, had threatened to cut funding from McGill equal to the amount of the tuition increase.

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