A Summit of Higher Education is taking place over the next few days here in Quebec. The ideas that have arisen are it should be an open discussion seeking solutions, but unfortunately many feel it is just an exercise or an opportunity to showcase university presidents for mismanagement.
Undergraduate university fees here in Quebec are the lowest in all of Canada, for the most part less than $2,200 a year. This past spring and summer resulted in students protesting a possible tuition increase, that was negligible when compared to elsewhere in Canada, by cancelling classes and using force to keep students that wanted to attend classes away from the classrooms. The spring semester was lost for the most part and students went back to school early this fall to complete the spring semester. Some students feel that tuition should be free. So, who is going to pay for it-the general public through yet more taxes? As if the almost 15% we pay on everything is not enough, along with what is required through the provincial tax return. If tuition is free to attend university or extremely low tuition offered, it opens the doors for all university age students to attend which could lead to more problems and issues to face. Huge class sizes, not enough professors or courses available, lack of resources, and the quality of education offered will most likely go down and it could encourage some to stay perpetually in university.
There are many questions. Are universities underfunded here in Quebec? Should not the quality of education, the quality of professors and research be looked at? Perhaps ways to streamline administration positions, the obvious of reviewing all expenses to see what could be cut without affecting quality ,or raise tuition costs to be more inline with what is charged elsewhere in Canada would be sufficient ways to answer these questions.
Students have brought up the issues of high salaries for administration, too much administration, and mismanagement of funds. Universities are saying they are underfunded-so, which is correct? What is the best solution, tuition freezes which can lead to lower quality of education, or moderate tuition fee increases to generate more income for universities while at the same time the universities do a serious and intense review of all their expenses/budgets?
There is no one answer.
Written by Victoria Brewster, MSW
SJS Staff Writer in Canada
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