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During McGill's presentation to the National Assembly's standing committee on education January 16, Principal Heather Munroe-Blum urged the Quebec government to take immediate action, including a reregulation of tuition fees tied to an increase in student aid, to reverse a trend of declining accessibility and quality in the province's post-secondary education system.
"Education must once again become Quebec's leading priority, as it was in the time of the Révolution tranquille," she said. "If we do not take bold, decisive action now to reinvest in our universities, the quality of our education will continue to deteriorate and the future of our young people will be compromised," she said.
In her call for tuition reregulation, Prof. Munroe-Blum said Quebec's 12-year tuition freeze has seriously compromised the quality of university education in Quebec, both in terms of study programs and campus infrastructure.
While Quebec tuition fees have been frozen at $1,668 since 1994, and thus decreased in real dollars, they have almost tripled in other Canadian provinces, she said.
Nor has the freeze increased accessibility, said Prof. Munroe-Blum. Citing statistics showing only 41 percent of Quebecers participate in the post-secondary education system, compared to a U.S. average of 63 percent, she said heavily subsidized tuition mainly benefits students from wealthier families because it forces the average taxpayer to help pay for the education of those families' children.
"What started out as a subsidy and grew into an article of faith is actually now undermining our commitment to quality education and degree completion," she said.
The presentation was among the regularly scheduled accountability sessions during which the province's post-secondary education institutions appear in turn before the commission de l'éducation. The McGill delegation also included Provost Anthony Masi, Vice Principal-Research and International Relations Denis Thérien and newly arrived Vice-Principal, Inter-institutional Relations Michael Goldbloom.
Prof. Munroe-Blum recommended the freeze be lifted and tuition rates allowed to rise to the Canadian average within the next three years. McGill would devote 30 percent of the additional tuition fees to bursaries for students and the remainder would go toward university improvements from which all students would benefit, she said.
Along with tuition reregulation, McGill asked that the government implement a fund-matching program to stimulate private donations to the province's universities. Such a program already exists in Ontario and has resulted in major increases to student financial aid.
The McGill delegation also said the government should abolish the so-called "McGill adjustment," which, since 2000, has denied McGill $80 million in government subsidies it is rightly owed under an agreed-upon funding formula. "We consider this to be a debt owed by the Quebec government to McGill," V-P Goldbloom said.