Concordia University announced that it will not be modifying the current tuition fee arrangement, which includes the increase tabled by the outgoing Liberal government, until it receives directives from the new Government of Quebec.
In a press conference following the Parti Québécois’ minority government victory, Premier-designate Pauline Marois announced her government will abolish tuition hikes by decree and annul Law 12.
Universities province-wide are waiting on official instructions from the newly formed government on what kind of adjustments will be made. Marois will officially become Premier Wednesday, Sept. 19.
Concordia University spokesperson Chris Mota explained that the setting of fees is not within the university’s discretion nor is the timing. The government decides it and universities must comply. In accordance with the increase set by the outgoing Liberal government, Concordia charged a surplus of $254 per student for the academic year.
“Once the new fees were mandated, the increases went into effect,” said Mota.
Université de Montréal spokesperson, Mathieu Filion, confirmed that tuition fees for the 2012-13 academic year were decided before the elections, and that like Concordia, U de M is waiting on the government’s instructions. McGill University spokesperson Julie Fortier also confirmed with The Concordian that McGill took a similar stance.
It is not clear yet on how university students will be compensated across the province, whether it be by a credit system applicable to the following term or by full refund.
“The university certainly budgeted with the increase in mind,” said Mota. “However, we were prepared to adjust the budget in the event that the increase was reversed,” she explained. “All Quebec universities have been quite vocal about the need for increased funding. Where that funding comes from is up to the government to decide.”
Along with educational institutions, many student groups also voiced their concern over the fact that the increase was implemented before the election campaign began. Concordia Student Union President Schubert Laforest told The Concordian that he hopes Concordia administration has a backup plan to deal with this turn of events.
“I hope the university has a bulletproof plan to deal with this roll back in a sustainable way for when it does happen,” said Laforest, “as opposed to [having] the situation crash and burn because it wasn’t planned for.”
Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec President Martine Desjardins expressed that it’s a troubling situation with the repeal of the tuition fee increase.
“I think the majority of students were surprised to see the tuition increase on their bills while we were in the middle of an election campaign,” said Desjardins. “To see that they were so eager to have students pay will only cause [universities] more administrative headaches to in turn refund students.”
VP external affairs of the Student Society of McGill University, Robin Reid-Fraser explained that there was a lack of communication between the institution and students regarding the tuition increase.
“McGill was very much planning that the increase was going to happen and fit it into their budget. It is not clear that McGill was really considering a plan B despite everything that was happening with the strike,” said Reid-Fraser.
According to Desjardins, representatives of the FEUQ plan to meet with the Minister of Education in the days following his or her appointment. She estimates it will take up to a week before they will be able to transmit any new and clear information about the current situation. Desjardins said she believes that the PQ will not back down on its decision to cancel the tuition fee increase.
“It wasn’t just a promise; it’s a commitment,” said Desjardins. “A government that pledges so forcefully simply can not backtrack.”