Tuition increases loom over English Universities; Legault stands firm

English universities struggle to see what their future will be without diversity in registration.

Montreal is the diversity hub of Quebec, and the provincial government’s latest blow to its universities has led to uproar from all sides of the city.

“It feels terrible. Very like… have your cake and eat it too,” said Dyan Solomon, renowned restaurant owner in Montreal and once out-of-province student, on the topic of the tuition increases set by the government of Quebec. 

On Oct. 13, the Quebec government implemented measures beginning at the start of the next fall term to “rebalance” the university network in Quebec and protect the French language. To do so, the Quebec government will be increasing tuition for out-of-province students from $9,000 to $17,000 and charging universities $20,000 for every international student. This move would make Quebec universities the most expensive in Canada for out-of-province students.

Students who are currently enrolled in an English university in Quebec will be grandfathered in at their current tuition rate. 

“I’ve been paraded around a lot by the Quebec media,” she added. “It’s very charming, the anglophone who learned how to speak French.” Her overall experience with  francophone Quebec media has been positive, but she questions why she is being used for tourism in Montreal while supposedly being a threat to the culture.

Graphics by Carleen Loney / The Concordian

Solomon hails from Kingston, Ontario. She moved to Montreal to study English literature at McGill. Now, Solomon has gone on to open up three renowned restaurants; Olive & Gourmando, Un Po’ Di Più, and Foxy. She employs over 100 people and is a massive contributor to the culinary culture of Montreal. Her cafe/restaurant Olive & Gourmando was the first business to breathe life back into Montreal’s Old Port. So, being described as a threat to the French language did not sit right with her. 

She also spoke about many of her colleagues in the restaurant industry who have come from away and forged a life here in Quebec navigating the difficult life of entrepreneurship here as an Anglophone.

Since the tuition hikes were announced, she has been using her platform as an influential Montrealer on Instagram to share her story as a former out-of-province student. She quickly accumulated a lot of responses from other remarkable Montrealers who have come from away and decided to gouge out a life in Quebec. 

Being here during the referendum of 1997, Solomon felt the high  expectation of learning French as an out-of-province student in the 90s. “When you came here you had the responsibility to speak French,” she said. “This is what you do–get with the program.” 

Students who are currently enrolled in an English university in Quebec will be grandfathered in at their current tuition rate. 

In a press conference, Jean François-Roberge, minister of the French language, and Pascale Déry, higher education minister, presented the new tuition framework as a way to promote the French language in Montreal as well as redistribute funds in the under-funded Quebec university system. 

When asked if there is too much English being spoken on the streets of Montreal, Jean François-Roberge said: “Of course.” This has sent Quebec’s three English universities, McGill, Concordia and Bishops, into a frenzy, as they account for the largest population of students from outside of Quebec.

In the same press conference Pascale Déry stated that they are looking to “put an end to funding Canadians” by introducing this tarification model. She said that most of these students leave after their studies, and asked why the Quebec tax payer should foot the more than $110 million a year bill for these students. This number has yet to be proven in documents from the government.

Bishops University, with a student population of just 2,500 students, 30 per cent of which are out-of-province and 15 per cent international, will feel the biggest impact of the tuition increase. This new framework threatens to force the closure of the small liberal arts college in the Eastern Townships. 

As an out-of-province student from Alberta, Bishops’ student body president Sofia Stacey believes the measure will make out-of-province students feel unwelcome in Quebec. “Students are fearful, stressed, frustrated, but most of all angry, because they feel that they’ve been told whether they won’t be affected or not, that they don’t belong here,” she said and continued by saying that maybe there just isn’t a place for them in Quebec anyways. 

Stacey fear the news of the proposed tuition hikes will steer incoming students away from Quebec. “That’s heartbreaking for those who have contributed, not just to the economy, but to Quebec society and the culture,” she added. 

On Nov. 6, Quebec Premier Francois Legault refused a historic proposal put forth by English universities to significantly increase their French language education for students. This proposal included plans to help out-of-province students integrate into the French job market after they graduate.

After the announcement of the measure in October, Concordia University spokesperson Vannina Maestracci said in an interview that Concordia was not consulted on the new framework, but was notified two days before the announcement. 

She added that Concordia was looking into what the total effects of the tuition increase will be on smaller programs like creative arts with a large affected population of almost 50 per cent of out-of-province students. 

Graham Carr, president of Concordia University, shared the financial ramifications of the new framework in a letter to the Concordia community. With the added effects of the tuition increases on out-of-province and international students, the university will see a $62 million loss in four years, when the grandfathered tuition wears out. 

Quebec Liberal education critic Marwah Rizqy has been the loudest MNA against the tuition hikes and said Minister Dery needs to “find some common sense” when it comes to the new tuition increases. 

Many out-of-province students come here to learn French and experience the vast and diverse cultures of Montreal. Concordia student Semira Kosciuk from Toronto said she came here for the “culture and for the opportunity to learn more French by immersing myself in it.” Even if she did not speak enough French to complete a degree at a French university, Concordia was the next best thing to learn the language.

ASFA academic coordinator Angelica Antonakopoulos spoke after the Blue Fall Protest on Oct. 30, encouraging students to sign the petition sponsored by the Quebec Liberal Party to force the issue to be debated in Parliament. 

ASFA is currently working on other demonstrations in partnership with other institutions to bring out more students later in November. 


What the CAQ’s tuition increase will mean for prospective out-of-province students

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.


Where’s my (fee levy) money? 

Following the vote in favor of increasing Concordia Student Services fee levy, a new oversight body will be established to manage the funds.

In the recent Concordia Student Union (CSU) general elections, students voted 54.9 per cent in favor of an increase to the Concordia Student Services (CSS) fee levy. This is the first time Concordia Student Services have requested a fee levy increase since 2009. The $0.85 per credit increase brings the total fee levy from $10.26 per credit to $11.11 per credit, an overall 8.3 per cent increase. The vote was decided on a 9.1 per cent student voter turnout. 

Following the fee levy increase, the CSU and Concordia Student Services are set to create a mandating and oversight body to create greater transparency over the use of student funds.

A number of different units make up CSS, including the Student Success Centre, Campus Wellness and Support Services (which include counseling and psychological services) and the Dean of Students Office. In their application for an increased fee levy, CSS cited a net decrease in enrolment at Concordia due to the decline in 18-24 year olds living in Quebec. Currently, CSS has a surplus budget due to higher levels of enrolment previously. Without the fee levy, they expect to operate with a $2,316,991 deficit by the 2024-2025 academic year.

CSS helps students access many services at no direct cost, including but not limited to doctors, counseling, career advice and tutoring. In the 2021-2022 academic year, counseling and psychological services provided 9,654 student appointments, including triage and counseling. A deficit would see CSS needing to cut services.

“There are so many services offered in student services. It’s such a wide variety and I think each one is really important in its own way,” said Catherine Starr-Prenovost, a fifth-year psychology student at Concordia who currently works as a welcome crew mentor with the Student Success Centre, and as a homeroom facilitator as part of the Dean of Students Office.

“I can’t think of any student service that doesn’t have a huge impact on students’ lives.”

While student services are impactful, the nature of how their funding is allocated can be quite vague. 

​​”Students don’t have a way where they can govern this money, $9 million every year from their fees. They don’t have a way of knowing how it gets allocated. They can’t oversee it as there isn’t even a budget publicly available on their website,” said Fawaz Halloum, the CSU’s general coordinator.

The total revenue for CSS this year was $10,672,927 with student fees fronting 90 per cent of their funding, not including the surplus. Other student-run fee levy groups are required to hold Annual General Meetings, where board members can discuss budgets. They keep auditor’s reports and other financials ready at any time. This is not currently the case for Concordia Student Services. 

“There’s a trend that students do not want to keep paying into university services where they have absolutely no control over their money or to oversee or hold them accountable,” said Halloum.

Following CSS’ initial application for funding, Halloum suggested that an oversight body be created.

“I told them that students would want to see a board, a council of sorts, where students will sit along with the service directors. They will fight the budgets, make decisions and bring in student concerns directly and have a bit of a forum between the shareholders and the executives, which is long overdue,” said Halloum.

Halloum believes that with more oversight, the quality of work done by CSS could be improved.

“If you just start breaking it down one by one, you can find a slew of things that you can improve on pre-existing services, maybe even add certain facilities or services,” he said.

In most units of student services, a majority of the budget is directed towards salaries and benefits. According to their 2021-22 yearly report, CSS employs 118 professional employees across their units, with 322 students employees. During that year, student jobs accounted for $1,253,000 of the annual operating and non-operating budgets. This represents 10.44 per cent of CSS’ total revenue in that year, despite the fact that student employees make up 73.18 per cent of the CSS’ total workforce.

According to Laura Mitchell, Concordia’s executive director of student experience, the new funding from students won’t necessarily mean new services. “It’s to keep everything going that we have at present,” she said. “So this wouldn’t be money that would bolster one particular area. It would be spread across everything that we currently do.”

According to their application, CSS predicts a five per cent increase in costs to maintain their services every year. The extra money will help combat this increase and maintain salaries for professional and student employees amid rising cost of living expenses. 

​​”It’s all equally important, like our student jobs are really important to us,” said Mitchell. “We love working with students and we love supporting them. So obviously, we would love to be able to give a fair and generous salary to our student employees as much as we possibly can,” she added.

Student employees like Starr-Prenovost have spoken highly of their experience with CSS. “It’s been an amazing experience,” she said. “I feel like I’m treated really well and very fairly.”

A new oversight body has the potential to improve transparency to students, so they can better understand how their funds are being allocated. 

“Both sides were very enthusiastic about this idea,” Mitchell said.

Currently, CSS does have a committee called Concordia Council on Student Life that is a parity committee made up of students and staff. Mitchell says the new advisory body could resemble it. 

“We need to set up those consistent meetings and have these discussions and I think that will be great. I think it’d be really illuminating for both sides. To learn more about each other, because obviously these collaborations are really important for us too.” 

Now that the fee levy increase has been approved, a memorandum of understanding will be presented to the CSU’s council in one year to create a body staffed and operating in the following academic year.

“We don’t want to go in alone, we want to be in partnership as much as possible,” said Mitchell.

Despite the risk of deficit and increasing costs, students are the only ones currently being asked to increase their contributions to student services. The university’s contribution to CSS makes up just 4.11 per cent, which would diminish with an increased fee levy. It’s not as though the university does not have money to support these services. According to Concordia’s annual financial reports, a number of executives saw salary increases this year with President Graham Carr receiving a 9.56 per cent pay raise.

But Mitchell said they are having discussions with the university to see what that contribution looks like. “I think that’s another very important component,” she said.

Starr-Prenovost also thinks it’s important for everyone, including the university, to contribute to maintaining these services and that the efforts of people like Mitchell see results.

“I do hope to see that it comes to an increase in funding from [the university] as well. Anybody that could offer funding to the Student Success Center in student services, I think it would be a great investment,” she said.

“I really do think that the services are so important. Essentially, I think that it should be a priority  for everybody to increase funding for student services in general.”


Interview with Concordia University President Graham Carr

On this unprecedented year, and a hint on what students can expect going forward

Concordia University’s President and Vice-Chancellor Graham Carr virtually sat down with The Concordian to talk about this past year and the university’s plans moving forwards.

TC: How did Concordia handle the changes brought on by the pandemic?

GC: I’m pretty pleased with how the whole university community responded. I think that faculty members, by and large, really made a great effort … to develop courses in the online environment that were stimulating for students and that allowed them to develop the competencies that they needed.

Not to say that [students] enjoyed the situation, nobody enjoyed the fact that we were not able to access campus — but … we had [the] largest graduating class we’ve ever had last June. We had the largest summer enrollment that we ever had. And interestingly, in January, we had the lowest dropout rate from courses that we’ve ever had.

So to me what that says is that students, although it was a challenging year, were making adaptations to try and to cope with the situation.

TC: Can you provide an update on what students can expect for the upcoming year?

GC: We anticipate and we hope that our fall [2021] will include a much greater number of in-person courses. Our senses [are] that students who are not currently in Montreal*… would prefer to be in Montreal, even if some of their courses continue to be delivered online.

Our goal with this is that by May, we can actually tell students, this is what the schedule is going to look like.

*On March 29, Concordia sent a letter encouraging international students to make plans to move back to Montreal for the fall semester. More information can be found here.

TC: Will Concordia consider providing vaccinations for students on campus?

GC: So that’s a discussion point that universities are having with public health. We’ve indicated that we would be prepared to [be a] site for vaccination for members of our own community.

But the decision around the rollout of vaccinations is … a decision of public health authorities. For the moment, they’re focused on an age based vaccination process … and we are part of those conversations with public health, about [the] potential strategies with regard to our own community, including students.

TC: A lot of students have complained that the quality of education has not remained the same. Can you speak on that?

GC: In March and April of last year when we really had to switch on a dime, from in-person teaching to remote teaching … that was an emergency situation and I think faculty members adapted as best they could.

Since that time … many faculty members have continued to modify their approach to teaching in an online environment. So I think that the quality of what is available — I won’t say in every single case — generally, online, has significantly improved.

TC: How are you hearing back from students without the teacher evaluations?

GC: We’ve done a number of surveys with students over the course of the last year. I … meet regularly with both the heads of [the] CSU and the Graduate Student Association. When we were at the height of the closures, we were meeting once or twice a week.

Also we had the COVID-19 hotline and web based interaction where we literally received thousands of questions and comments from students.

TC: Students were asking for a pass/fail option this past year, and the university granted the option for one class after much deliberation. Could you speak on that decision?

GC: Under the context of COVID we were trying to make accommodations which will reduce tension and stress on the student population. If I have any regret about the fall, [it] was that we didn’t come to that decision and announce that decision a few weeks earlier.

I think the ideal framework in which to approach a pass/fail option is not something that’s across the board, but something that’s very selective and which has a positive intention of allowing and encouraging students to experiment. This is something that we want to look at with [the] senate as a potential permanent change to the universities approach going forward.

TC: There have been calls to reduce tuition. What are your thoughts on that movement?

GC: Tuition for the overwhelming majority of students is set by the Government of Quebec. When students are paying tuition they’re paying for the competency that comes with the credits that they get for the course. And whether that’s delivered in an online environment or an in-person environment, the competencies are still the same.

I’m comfortable that the tuition that students pay is to allow them to achieve those objectives.


Courtesy of Concordia University

Student Life

Concordia is not doing enough: the case for tuition reduction

The University has not been lenient towards students amid a global pandemic

Last May, Concordia’s proposed budget was decided by the Board of Governors and was “long-term oriented to address post COVID-19 structural issues.” The 2020-2021 budget assumes the impacts of COVID-19 will go on for three years into the future. However, recent developments in clinical testing by Pfizer and Moderna have led the government to stockpile available doses. This means a return towards pre-COVID life might come sooner than expected. As such, a crucial reduction in tuition is justified despite the university potentially operating under a larger deficit for the current fiscal year.

Thousands of students have petitioned since the beginning of the fall semester to reduce tuition. Nearly 97 per cent of students who participated in the recent Concordia Student Union (CSU) by-elections of 2020 voted in favour of tuition reduction.

In a town hall meeting  hosted by the CSU on Nov. 19, students considered mass organization and protests against tuition hikes, similar to the 2012 student strike. They stated that, “In the context of the pandemic, we need to do that now as well — enough is enough.”

Many feel as though the school is indifferent towards the plight of its students.

“I’m convinced that the university doesn’t really care. They’d let half of us die if it means that the other half will be filled with students, because what they’re really interested in is keeping us enrolled and keeping us paying,”  said a student who was interviewed by The Link.

While students continue to voice their concerns, Concordia’s current budget leaves little to no room for financial leniency towards them.

According to Fiona Harrison-Roberts, the outgoing finance coordinator of the Journalism Student Association (JSA), “Concordia will be increasing the price of tuition this year as opposed to reducing tuition.”

“COVID-19[‘s] recurrent and structural impact will need to be integrated into the budget model for fiscal years 2021-2022 and thereafter,” as mentioned in the budget’s PDF document.

With a bulk of students shifting from full-time to part-time as well as a decline in first-year students, Concordia experienced an expected loss of revenue as a result of COVID-19.

“The drop is attributable to lost income from on-campus activities such as residence room rentals, parking and conferences, and diminished tuition revenue because of a decline in international student registrations, particularly at the graduate level,” said Concordia’s President and Vice-Chancellor Graham Carr in a public statement .

Currently, Concordia is operating under a deficit of five to eight per cent for the fiscal year.

“It is a large amount; however, the figures are similar to what the Government of Quebec has invested in proportion to its own budget to address the COVID crisis,” Carr added.

While Concordia is using the government’s actions to justify their current expenditures, the question to be asked is whether comparing themselves to a provincial government that has not done enough in the face of COVID-19 is a smart thing to do.

Regardless, as the student body grows more restless and with vaccines available this upcoming year, a “three-year financial plan” to combat the effects of COVID-19 becomes less pertinent. Students continue their uphill battle this year in paying rent and tuition, working, and studying through “Zoom University,” with little to no financial relief from their institution.

Concordia boasts of a “solid financial track record” in reference to their “balanced budget for 2019-20” after public funding cuts forced deficits for many years.

“In 2019-2020, before COVID, we had a balanced budget for the first time in six years,” stated Carr.

While it may be a commendable feat for some, Concordia’s members should ask themselves: at whose cost was this achievement realized, if not the students’?

Operating under a larger deficit to ensure the financial safety and security of nearly 50,000 students during a global pandemic is not an unreasonable demand. Especially when such an operation runs at the detriment of both the financial and mental health of its students.


Feature graphic by @the.beta.lab


International students’ tuition hikes are added hurdles

One student’s experience with epilepsy, expenses and finding hope at Concordia

The debate over raising tuition at Concordia, particularly for international students such as myself, fails to acknowledge the various reasons we chose to study in Canada. When I applied to 12 universities at the end of my high school career, I had no idea Concordia University even existed. That all changed in 2016, the day before Thanksgiving, when I had my first seizure.

At the time, I had started college in Kalamazoo, Mich. I had chosen to attend that university because of a generous scholarship, but the annual price of $45,000 still took a toll on my parents’s finances. As my seizures grew in intensity, my parents’s budget shrank. They now had to pay for an American education and increasing medical costs. Granted, their insurance handled a portion of the financial burden, but nothing could prepare them for the massive bills to come when I started my second year of college.

Two weeks into the academic year, while walking home from a party, I had two massive seizures, each lasting for a dangerously long few minutes. In the aftermath, unbeknownst to me, my mind became overwhelmed with paranoia, delusions and confusion (known as the postictal state). These post-seizure symptoms can manifest in a variety of ways and usually last anywhere from a few seconds to a few weeks. After refusing to be taken to a hospital, aware from previous experiences the ambulance ride would cost $6,000, I became convinced my anticonvulsant drugs were prescribed by a malicious doctor intent on provoking seizures and taking money from the pharmaceutical industry.

A year later, I am aware that delusion is absurd, but in the days following the seizures, my mind deteriorated to the point where my behaviour became noticeably concerning. The college chaplin I worked with took me to the medical centre. Following a brief evaluation, I was involuntarily committed to a for-profit neuro-psychiatric facility in nearby Indiana. As each day passed, my postictal state subsided and in its place, I developed a tremendous sense of guilt. Even with my parents insurance, the hospital, ambulance and tuition would cost my parents tens of thousands of dollars.

After a few days, I received a notebook and pen, an incredible privilege at an institution where many mentally impaired individuals have violent tendencies. In the notebook, I wrote down the pros and cons of staying in Michigan, and I ultimately decided that when I got out, I’d apply to Concordia. I knew of the university because, the previous spring, I had visited a friend in Montreal and fell in love with the city.

My acceptance letter filled me with mixed emotions; I felt sad to leave my internship and friends behind, but was also excited for the adventure ahead. In January 2018, I started classes at Concordia. Meanwhile, my parents continued paying off the never-ending stream of medical bills.

The annual cost of tuition, housing and living expenses in Canada saved my parents over $20,000 a year. Insurance, as part of the university health plan, reduced my monthly medication cost from $260 to $0.

According to The Concordian, Concordia president Alan Shepard said the recent tuition increase for international engineering and computer science students matches tuition hikes for non-international students. At first glance, this new financial approach makes sense, but fails to acknowledge the complex circumstances that motivate international students to study at Concordia. Raising international students’ tuition in order to maintain proportionality to what Canadian citizens pay is simplistic, and harms international students with unique circumstances like me.

I love Concordia University, and have made a home here. Canada and Quebec’s principle of the right to affordable education and medical care is something the United States desperately needs. Many of my American friends view their northern neighbours’s values with awe. Let’s work to ensure they are preserved so international and domestic students alike can obtain an education and fulfill their dreams.

Note: All costs mentioned have been converted from American to Canadian dollars.

Graphic by spooky_soda


Affordable tuition should be nationwide

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


Editorial: Concordia is going after International Students

The news spread like wildfire on social media after the CSU shared a statement on a variety of Facebook groups and platforms. The statement detailed how the university’s administration has been looking to increase tuition costs for international students for the last three years. The CSU believes a proposal is expected to be approved by the board of governors on Dec. 14, meaning the increase would be implemented starting in the fall 2017 semester.

We were in shock here at The Concordian, as international students already pay way more than Quebec residents. Many of these students rack up a huge amount of debt whilst studying in our bustling metropolis, or are forced to look for some sort of employment to ease the financial burden. However, it can be especially difficult for non-francophone students to get jobs in Montreal.

Here at The Concordian, we think this proposed tuition hike is downright shady. It feels like Concordia is finding new ways to extort money from the student population, like capitalist vampires on a bloodthirsty hunt for fresh meat. According to the CSU’s website, international students currently make up approximately 17 per cent of Concordia’s students body, and they are the source of 25 per cent of the university’s tuition-based revenue—this was revealed during the university’s September 2016 budget meeting. At the meeting, it was also stated that “Concordia is looking to increase the ratio of international students in order to generate additional revenue from tuition,” according to the CSU.

The fact that this proposal has been in the works for the past three years is also quite troublesome, especially given the fact that it’s only being brought to our attention now. How many other secret projects are in the pipeline that’ll impact our student population? We would like to think that Concordia values its international students and what they bring to our university, but the current circumstance seems to suggest they value money more than good education.

As of yet, the university won’t allow CSU representatives to see the proposal, meaning we—the students—won’t be able to get the concrete details.

“[The proposal] has yet to be presented to the Finance Committee of the Board of Governors. That will only open happen late next month. We have to respect our governance process so the proposal won’t be shared with anyone until it goes through the required.” Said Concordia spokesperson Chris Mota.

We understand the protocol in this situation, but we believe the university should be more transparent and divulge the true details of this proposal, so the student body can be fully informed before anything is approved.

This isn’t the first time international students have been screwed over either. Rewind to 2012, when the media reported widely on the fact that many Chinese international students were being ripped off. CBC News reported that Concordia hired a third party recruiter to attract chinese students to the university, yet the recruiter overstepped his role and essentially took their money and set them up in housing accommodations. When the students arrived, many of them were crammed into tiny rooms and were not even fed properly, according to the same report. Many students lost a lot of money and were afraid to speak out because they weren’t aware of their rights and feared deportation.

The university’s main focus should be on providing an opportunity for students—both from Quebec and abroad—to get a decent education and acquire the skills and expertise they need to work in an international job market. How can Concordia build its reputation abroad if the administration is constantly trying to suckle every penny out of these poor students?

Concordia Student Union News

CSU takes a stand against potential tuition hikes

The student union opposes the university’s rumoured tuition hike affecting international students

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) revealed the Concordia administration has been planning—supposedly for three years—a perpetual tuition hike that will affect future international students.

A recent open letter posted on the CSU’s website last Friday said this tuition hike would be directed towards students in deregulated programs.

Most universities’ program fees are regulated by the provincial government, but since 2008, according to the open letter from the CSU, the government of Quebec has deregulated six programs of study for international students: business, engineering, computer science, pure sciences, mathematics and law. This means the university can charge international students in these programs any price they want.

The university will propose tuition increases through “cohort pricing,” which is a payment scheme that guarantees tuition fees for international students in deregulated programs won’t increase over the course of their degree, according to the open letter. This means that when an international student begins their program at Concordia, they will be paying the same fee for every year of study. However, their fee will be higher than a student who started in the same program the year before.

The university has yet to confirm how much higher the fees will be, which isn’t a good sign, according to Lucinda Marshall-Kiparissis, general coordinator for the CSU. “If the university is declining to provide some basic information about what they’re planning for cohort pricing, we are led to suspect that it’s going to be significant increases year by year,” she said.

The student union found out about the increase after Chris Mota, university spokesperson mentioned in an email, that the university has been exploring implementing cohort pricing for international students in deregulated programs for three years now. To follow up, the CSU has been directly asking the university about specifics of their plan, but the university has yet to answer their questions. “It’s unfortunate that we are running under assumptions since we are the accredited union for all students at Concordia,” said Marshall-Kiparissis.

Sepideh Zangeneh, an international student from Mexico studying business at the John Molson School of Business, said she can barely afford the current tuition at Concordia. She’s worried if the tuition increases drastically, she will have to drop out. “I love Concordia, but if I can’t stay here because I can’t afford it, I’ll have to change,” she said.

Zangeneh is not the only one worrying about these tuition hikes. Samuel Miriello, who studies Human Resources Management, is concerned about the possible tuition hikes, even though he’s not an international student. “The school environment will change for the worse if the tuition hikes occur,” he said. Miriello said if  tuition rises for international students, only the elite of the international students will be represented at Concordia. “This prevents us, the students, from seeing the world from a clear, fair, equality-oriented lens,” he said.

As a response to the supposed tuition hikes, he created a Facebook group, “Concordia University Against International Tuition Hike,” alongside Zangeneh and CSU’s External Affairs and Mobilization Coordinator, Aloyse Muller. The group’s goal is to bring students together who are against the tuition hike the university is imposing without the students’ consent. They are currently working on a petition and are also planning an awareness day once enough students are aware of the situation, Miriello said.

The CSU believes the proposal for the tuition hikes for international students in deregulated programs will be presented to the Board of Governors on Dec. 14. If it is approved, the proposal will be implemented as of the fall 2017 semester.


Tuition austerity showdown

Why increasing tuition would have made a difference
by Nathalie Laflamme

In 2012, tens of thousands of students marched in the streets to protest the Liberal party’s increased tuition fee plan. The rest, as we say, is history. Or is it?

The Parti Québécois’ promise not to increase tuition fees led to them to 2012 victory. During their (very short) time in office, they indexed tuition fees at 2.6 per cent for the 2013-2014 fiscal year, and 2.2 per cent for 2014-2015, and lowered student tax credits from 20 per cent to 8 per cent. Together, these changes represent a major indirect tuition increase.

We must also keep in mind that, on average, costs at the university increase by four to five per cent in Canada. “So lets say that inflation is four per cent and you have two per cent, you’re already losing ground,” Concordia President Alan Shepard told The Concordian in March.

Today, the Liberal Party is back in office. Severe budgetary cuts have been made across the spectrum of public-sector institutions. Tuition fees have not increased under the sitting government, but record-breaking cuts to post-secondary education were made this year, totalling at $173 million. Concordia alone has had to cut $15.7 million for the 2014-2015 fiscal year, meaning a total of $29 million in two years.

Concordia was the first university to announce how they would deal with the cuts this year: with a voluntary departure program (VDP). This will mean that 180 staff and administrative positions will be cut this year.

Obviously, cutting 180 positions will have a significant impact on how the university runs. The school did their best in order not to impact the student experience while still making the cuts they had to make.

Still, the VDP does not cover all the cuts that need to be made, and the departments are currently working to find anything that could save the school some cash. Concordia will, for example, save $1 million by postponing the replacement of office equipment, like computers.

All of this begs the question: would things be different had the original tuition hike plan been implemented?

Had the original tuition increase plan gone forward, universities would have received a projected additional $190 million in 2014-2015 from tuition increases alone, according to a budget released by the provincial Ministry of Finance in 2010. Therefore, it would not have been necessary to make cuts to education funding at all had tuition rates increased; in fact, schools would have received substantially more funding.

Of course, this is just a projection. There is no way of really knowing where today’s universities would stand. After all, Quebec has one of the highest deficits in the country. At the time of writing, Quebec’s debt was totaled over $270 billion, according to the Fraser Institute. For all we know, the same cuts would have been made.

Still, the fact remains that universities were underfunded before the government’s budgetary cuts were even announced.

Students don’t want tuition to increase, but is it realistic to expect tuition to be this low forever, when every year, the cost of living increases? Is it time to store away the ideal of free post-secondary education for Quebecers? These are questions worth asking.

For every year that tuition remains this low, universities lose money. We need to remember that, with education, we are getting what we pay for.


Tuition hikes: student’s can’t afford it, but Concordia admins sure can
by Laura Marchand

Quebec is in desperate need of austerity, I won’t deny that. The compressions are hitting everyone in the public sector, and it would be naive to assume that the universities would (or could) be kept out of the firing range. Obviously, Concordia will need to find the money somewhere to continue its operations.

But that place isn’t the pockets of its students—it’s with the administrators.

Let’s start with the obvious: university students simply can’t afford a higher tuition. Students are consistently the poorest bracket amongst Canadians, in part due to the combined cost of tuition, the loss of viable work hours, and the cost of housing and food, among other things. In fact, a 2012 Globe and Mail article states that tuition has been rising at a rate of 6.2 per cent annually—almost three times the rate of inflation, and hence, our paychecks.

As it is, many Canadian students owe about $37,000 in combined public and private debt by the time they finish their education—and 60 per cent of recent graduates have at least $27,000 in debt by the time they enter the workforce.

Frankly, we’re between a rock and a hard place. We can choose not to go to school at all, but in an economic climate where 75 per cent of new jobs in the next decade will require a university degree, being “uneducated” means you’re flat-out unemployed.

However, the meat of the argument doesn’t lie with the circumstances of students. In fact, it lies with Concordia itself.

How often have you tried to find an advisor, or tried to speak to someone in your department, only to be lost in a maze the minotaur would be proud of? You’ll find yourself face-to-face with vaguely-titled administrators and advisors, and will leave feeling bewildered and no closer to finding answers to your queries.

In fact, the VP of Development and External Relations, who also acts as our Secretary General, has nine people reporting directly to him—and all but one of them has an entire office that reports to them, in turn. Combine this with the mind-boggling amount of people we see crammed into each department’s office quarters, and it becomes shockingly clear: Concordia University is top-heavy.

According to Concordia’s own Financial Report to the government of Quebec, $53,028,000 was spent on “Administration”—not to be confused with “Operational services,” which is its own category, and is awarded approximately $34 million.

Our beloved President and Vice-Chancellor Alan Shepard, in 2012 (the year he joined Concordia), earned a staggering $357,000—which is amazing, considering that was only for nine months of work.

I think it’s safe to assume that, in the years since, that figure may have gone up — not to mention the potential bonuses and expense account that go with it. In the case of McGill’s former principal, Heather Munroe-Blum, over $200k was added to her base salary in the form of “other compensation”— and she’s not the only one, according to Maclean’s.

It’s a bit odd that this isn’t anywhere on Concordia’s website, isn’t it? The fact that the only way to find such information is to dig through a 98-page document hidden deep in the archives of the Government of Quebec is, to put it mildly, suspicious.

Why not post this information on your website, Concordia? It’s interesting, because you actually do have a Financial Statements document posted for everyone to see—but it’s a mere 30 pages long. Where did the information on your salaries go? They seem to be omitted from the version you proudly posted on your site.

Yes, the Government of Quebec is compressing our school. But the government should only touch the tuition of its students as a last resort, and not until it has done a little introspection of its own—especially where university administration is concerned.


The online conundrum for Concordia students

Why paying more for online classes just isn’t worth it.

We’ve all been in this situation: to take an online class, or not to take an online class?

We all know the obvious pros of doing so: Online classes have the reputation of being easier than “real” classes (INTE 290, anyone?). For some, taking an online class practically means not taking a class at all until finals come along. Taking a class on the web also allows you to quite easily cheat your way through online quizzes. Some websites even cater specifically to students offering answers to quiz questions free of charge.

Clearly, online classes can be the lazy student’s dream. But, at the end of the day, are they worth it?

After all, education is not cheap; online classes usually cost even more than regular classes.

These extra costs include online materials for the course. In many cases, students won’t ever use this resource. Once the course is over, there is no going back: unlike a hard copy of a textbook, it is impossible to re-sell this resource.

The quality of education for online courses does not even come close to comparing to that of a real, sit-in class.

Firstly, the sections are humongous; some have hundreds of people. This means that the one professor in charge can obviously not correct all assignments, so the burden of the work falls to the TAs.

There is also the matter of limited interaction with the professor. More often than not, you will communicate mostly or entirely with the TA if an issue arises.

At the end of the day, we wonder what can one really learn from the online classes currently offered at Concordia?  Many would agree (including a vocal minority of our masthead) that, in many cases, they have learned nothing.

Offering online courses is very important. Some students, especially those who have children at home, work days, or have mobility issues, benefit greatly from being able to take course online. But should the quality of their education have to suffer for that increased flexibility?

Paying a little extra could be acceptable if it meant a richer, more challenging and engaging work enjoyed from the comfort of your own laptop, but Concordia’s offered online courses are anything but.

Online classes at Concordia have a poor reputation within the student community, and should be revised because what they are now just useless. And expensive.


Kiss the hike goodbye

After holding office for only one day, Quebec Premier Pauline Marois is following through on her campaign promise to cancel the university tuition hikes imposed by the outgoing Liberal government.

Students and accessible education activists are celebrating this highly anticipated move, after months spent protesting the controversial hikes implemented by former Premier Jean Charest.

Marois said Thursday that her Parti Québécois minority government plans to maintain the $39-million increase on student financial assistance set up by the Liberals prior to the election. She went on to say that tuition for the school year will be capped at $2,168.

“The increase is cancelled for this year, for 2012-13 and for the next years, we will have the discussion at a summit on education,” said Marois during a news conference.

This summit is expected to happen within the first 100 days of the PQ taking power.

Her second order of business upon taking office was to put an end to Law 78, another controversial piece of legislation which limited the legality of protests taking place almost nightly within the province. CBC Montreal reported that the law would officially “come off the books” Friday.

More to come.

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