Quebec to unfreeze tuition fees in fall of 2012

4107-prixduquebecEducation summit to discuss next steps

By Chris Chipello

Quebec Finance Minister Raymond Bachand signaled that the government will permit more significant increases in university tuition beginning in the fall of 2012, with the aim of ensuring adequate funding for the province’s universities.

The 2010-2011 budget unveiled by Bachand Tuesday, March 30, doesn’t quantify the future increases. But it states that the Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport will call a meeting of “education partners” this fall in order to establish the terms of tuition increases beyond 2012.

“Enhancing resources for universities to enable them to develop inevitably involves raising tuition fees,” according to budget documents, which note that the government already has made specific commitments to raise fees by $100 a year up to 2011-2012.

The meeting in the fall will focus on “the performance of the university network and universities’ overall efficiency in teaching, research and management,” the budget states. It will also “provide an opportunity to discuss the resources that need to be devoted to university education, particularly with regard to levels, sources and terms of funding.”

In a statement, the Conférence des recteurs et des principaux des universités du Québec (CREPUQ) said it is pleased that the government has identified the funding of universities as one of the urgent issues facing Quebec society. “It is essential, for the future of Quebec’s universities, that the government, students and private sector contribute to university funding so as to close the gap that exists” between the level of funding in Quebec and that in other provinces, said Daniel Zizian, president and director-general of CREPUQ.

Above all, the planned increase in tuition should not lead the government to reduce its investments in universities, he added.

The quality of teaching and research, as well as access to university, will be central to the discussions in the fall, the government said.

The meeting will also provide an opportunity to discuss other issues such as “educationnal democracy” and “the alignment of education with future labour market needs.”

The adjustment in tuition fees as of fall 2012 “will be made based on what is deemed to be a fair and equitable share of tuition fee funding for students to have to bear,” the government said. “This share is currently 12.5 per cent.”

At the same time, the government pledged to ensure that the Loans and Bursaries Program “will continue to make university education financially accessible.”

Overall, the new budget calls for spending on education to rise 2.2 per cent in the coming year.

A student-led protest against the proposed tuition increases is planned for 1 p.m. today in Phillips Square.