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FEUQ vows to persevere against tuition hike

by Archives October 30, 2007

The Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), the largest student post-secondary education lobby group in Quebec, plans to continue its offensive against the minority Liberal government to reinstate the freeze on post-secondary tuition fees this year.
In 2007, students saw the first hike in post-secondary tuition fees in more than 10 years in Quebec. Following the growing discontent of students in regards to the fee increase, the FEUQ intends to push for the reinstatement of the tuition fee freeze that has prevailed for many years in Quebec.
“We will use a progressive approach in using our means of pressure. If the government refuses to acknowledge our demands, we will consult the students in order to see if they want to go further with the means of pressure,” said FEUQ President Jean-Patrick Brady last week.
Even though he did not specify if a student strike could be a potential weapon, Brady said that the minority government currently in power in Quebec favours the students in the event of a negotiation. Brady also said that a government study released last week has shown that the government’s current post-secondary policy on tuition is hurting the accessibility to post-secondary studies in Quebec.
Ordered by Education Cabinet Minister Michelle Courchesne, the study does not outright state that the Liberals are currently damaging accessibility to post-secondary education, it nevertheless hints that the Liberals’ strategy may potentially result in a decrease of 6,000 students per year in universities across Quebec.
However, the results of the study cannot be overplayed since the researchers who conducted the study went on the assumption that the government would be hiking up tuition fees abruptly somewhere along the way, while the Liberal government has so far only raised tuition by $50 per semester.
Education Minister Courchesne reacted to the release of the study last week by saying she is not worried that the Liberal policy may hurt accessibility to post-secondary education.
“I am not worried at all. Tuition fees can be a factor in accessibility to University, but it is not the only one. Furthermore, it has not been proven that there would necessarily be a decrease in the number of students,” said Courchesne.
FEUQ President Jean-Patrick Brady said the Liberal policy of tuition increase is and has always been unacceptable. He said the FEUQ will continue to use its lobbying power to fight the government’s handling of the situation.
“Over the years, we’ve gained a lot of credibility through our studies and arguments. In the early 90s, the government even recognized [us] as the number one student spokesperson organization. So I think both at the media and political level, we are the most listened to student lobby group in Quebec,” said Brady.
In the past, the FEUQ has been a force to be reckoned with in student lobbying. In 2006, it obtained complete tax exoneration for student bursaries from the Federal government while it had previously obtained the equivalent from the provincial government in the 1990s. The FEUQ was also responsible for several other achievements including obtaining the right for international students to work off-campus in 2004.
When questioned about the current petition being pushed on Concordia campus to opt out of the FEUQ, Brady said it is the students’ right to engage in political debates and encouraged the practice as a healthy display of democracy in action.
“If students want to start debates about [opting out of the FEUQ], we will always be ready to negotiate with them because it is their democratic right after all. I think it is important that such rights are exercised,” said Brady.

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