So I see that the Government of Quebec, far from hitting their zero deficit target this year, is in fact going to come in with a deficit of about $2.5 billion. This means that, not only will the “reinvestment” in higher education – the money that was going to compensate institutions for not getting their promised tuition increase – not come any time soon, but it’s better than even-money that there’ll be cuts this year instead.
1) Hey, CREPUQ! Still think the “playing it quiet” strategy in the spring of 2012 was such a hot idea? Congratulations on such a well-executed plan.
2) Man, Quebec universities need to find some revenue sources.
That second one is a bit of a problem, of course. The PQ has indexed domestic tuition to some form of inflation, and, as I understand it, the Liberals have agreed to this policy as well – so that’s out. It could charge differential fees to out-of-province students, but they already tapped that well back 1996, so that’s out too.
So what about international students?
There are two oddities about Quebec’s international student fee policy. One is the policy of having regulated fees in some disciplines (e.g. arts, science) and de-regulated fees in others (e.g. engineering and business). Institutions get to keep all the money they take from students in de-regulated programs, but in regulated ones, any money received over and above what domestic students pay gets clawed back by the Ministry (yes, really). The second oddity is that international students from la francophonie pay Quebec tuition.
It’s clearly time for Quebec to get rid of both these policy oddities. The first one can’t be eliminated on its own, as it will be perceived as favouring the anglo universities, and, you know, dieu nous en garde. But if both are killed together, then there’s something in it for everyone. McGill gets to cash-in on all the Americans who come to study Arts, and enjoy the more righteous legal drinking age, and U de M and Laval get to actually charge all those European and African students who come over for the Engineering and Business programs.
(This is where someone says: “but they’ll lose students if they charge more!” Irrelevant. The only issue is whether they make up the attendant lost revenue through higher fees. Which shouldn’t be hard.)
The benefits of the francophonie tuition policy are minimal. Heck, one of its main consequences is that the Quebec government is currently subsidizing over 700 French students each year to study in English at McGill. So why bother? For the Quebec government, killing it would be a cost-free way to help universities with their funding issues. It should be a no-brainer.