One Toronto high-schooler is reconsidering his choice of university after the Legault government’s latest announcement.
The Legault government’s announced tuition rate hikes are causing much debate amongst students and university officials. As undergraduate tuition is set to nearly double next year, those looking for a future education in Montreal might start looking elsewhere.
“It’s pretty disheartening,” said Gaven Niron, a senior high school student from Toronto. “I think several of my friends saw ourselves in Montreal. Now, the future doesn’t look so promising.”
For some time, Niron has been eyeing Concordia’s journalism and art history programs. He practises music and writing in his spare time, which he believes might be inspired by Montreal’s culture following his multiple visits to the city.
Not long after the Coalition Avenir Quebec’s (CAQ) initial announcement, Niron was informed of the tuition raise, coming just in time for his first semester at Concordia. “It would be a very tough pill to swallow to put aside school in Quebec,” he said.
The tuition raise was announced by Quebec’s Minister of Higher Education, Pascale Déry, on Oct. 13. Following this information, Concordia posted an informational guide regarding the announcement. By fall of 2024, out-of-province students will be required to pay about $17,000, almost double the previous average of $8,992. International students will have to pay a “minimum rate” of $20,000, although this may be subject to change depending on the university, according to Déry.
Déry explained that the new rates will more closely reflect what non-Quebec students would be paying outside of Quebec. She also claimed the change would rectify a trend of out-of-province students taking advantage of Quebec’s decreased rates only to find work elsewhere after graduation.
The additional cost generated by this change will go directly into funding “the French-speaking network,” Déry said in an interview with the Journal de Québec.
Although his understanding of Quebec’s politics is sparse, Niron views the policy change as disruptive to Quebec’s growing diversity. He believes international students might not feel welcome after hearing the news, and hopes Quebec’s student population will come together in protest of the CAQ’s announcement.
Two university students have already started planning a first major protest in opposition to the tuition hikes. Titled the “Bluefall Protest,” this project first took root on social media, garnering support from major university institutions, even the francophone ones.
The protest is headed by Noah Sparrow, a third-year creative writing student at Concordia University, and Alex O’Neill, a second-year McGill political science student.
“Our goal for this protest is to showcase to the Quebec government that we are united in our cause, and we’re not going to be silent about it,” Sparrow said.
Sparrow and O’Neill believe the change is rooted in larger issues of discrimination against English-speaking minorities. They believe the CAQ’s decision was undemocratic, as students and professors were not consulted over such a large change in the status quo.
The Concordia Student Association (CSU) and the Student Society of McGill (SSMU) have also condemned the hike by releasing a joint statement on their social media accounts.
The Bluefall Protest organisers have a history in rousing collective action, and have high hopes for their new undertaking. “We can use the [protest] to show that the province has moved past language politics,” O’Neill said. The university-joint strike is expected to take place on Oct. 30 near Dorchester Square.
Lorraine O’Donnell, Senior Research Associate at the Quebec English-Speaking Communities Research Network (QUESCREN), believes the recent hikes were foreshadowed by previous moves like Bill 101 and Bill 96. She worries this will have a negative effect on enrollment and teacher employment.
O’Donnell sympathised with out-of-province students who will miss the opportunity to attend university at an affordable rate, which would eventually widen the class divide between anglophones and francophones.
As for Niron, he plans to gain residency in Quebec by taking a gap year in the province, which will allow him to pay the Quebec student tuition rate.