Education in Quebec feels like a right; in the rest of Canada it seems like a privilege
The average Canadian undergraduate student pays up to twice as much in tuition as Quebec students do, and I believe that needs to change. A post-secondary education in this province costs full-time students less than $4,000 over the course of two semesters to complete 30 credits. Ontario, on the other hand, is the most expensive province, with students paying over $8,000 in tuition per year, according to The Globe and Mail.
To students who live outside of this province, it is hard to comprehend why Quebec students have protested against their tuition rates so often in the last decade. Quebecers complain about many things, but tuition fees are not worth it in my opinion. In fact, it can feel like a bit of an insult to other students across the country who are forced to balance a substantial work week and their studies in order to afford university.
I am an Ontario resident, and during my last year of high school, I worked three jobs to be able to afford my $8,698 annual tuition in Quebec. Even when out-of-province students choose to study at a Quebec university, they still can’t get as good of a deal as Quebec students. Montreal Gazette columnist and editor of Policy magazine L. Ian MacDonald described the attitude of Quebec university students best when he wrote: “They don’t know how good they have it.”
MacDonald’s sentiment certainly rings true when you look at the fact that Quebec undergraduate students are less likely to complete their degree than Ontario students. According to The Globe and Mail, the probability of Quebec students obtaining an undergraduate degree in 2005 was 30.2 per cent compared to 38 per cent for students in Ontario. I am surprised that, despite lower tuition rates, Quebec students are so much less likely to complete their undergrad. I would have assumed lower tuition fees would result in higher participation and graduation rates.
Whether Quebecers are taking advantage of their tuition rates or not, it’s clear why low tuition fees are advantageous in the first place: accessibility. Lower university tuition rates make higher education more affordable and, therefore, more accessible to people of varying socio-economic status. This is why I believe low tuition rates should be adopted nationwide, not just in Quebec.
Quebec has “one of the most successful systems of post-secondary education we have in the country,” according to Roxanne Dubois, a chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students organization. “We are lucky enough to have a model that we can point to as something that recognizes that education should be something that should be available to everyone, regardless your social status,” she told CBC News Montreal.
Despite Nova Scotia having the lowest minimum wage out of all Canadian provinces, at $10.85 an hour, according to the non-profit organization Retail Council of Canada, their university fees are still nearly twice as expensive as in Quebec.
When a student must pay so much to attend university, failure is not an option. I believe shouldering a constant financial fear about your educational success is unfair. And yet, because our society places such value on obtaining a university degree, students across the country are making whatever sacrifices they can to pay these steep costs.
The many years of protesting tuition fees in Quebec should be an eye-opener for other provinces that a change needs to be made. Affordable tuition rates should be implemented across the country so that everyone can learn without the fear of going broke.
Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth