Dear members of the McGill community,
Since the Government of Quebec announced tuition measures that would affect our student enrolment and university financing on October 13, we have been analyzing their potential impacts on McGill. I am writing to share with you our initial analysis.
The measures – an increase in tuition fees for Canadian students from outside Quebec from $8,992 to approximately $17,000, and a change in the funding model regarding international students with the Government clawing back more money from tuition fees – will have profound and far-reaching consequences for McGill, if implemented. These range from a drop in the number of students and important revenue losses, to devastating consequences for some Faculties and a suspension or re-evaluation of some major infrastructure projects.
Most importantly, the measures the Government announced threaten to change our culture as they will create a shift in the make-up of our student body, and in the experience that our students have on our campuses.
Before providing more detail on how we could be affected, I want to assure you that McGill remains committed to working with the Government of Quebec to find more effective ways to help it achieve its goals of promoting and protecting the French language while reinvigorating Quebec’s university system.
Here are some of the major impacts that the announced changes would have on McGill:
Enrolment at McGill will drop: Many Canadian students from outside Quebec will likely not come to McGill because their tuition in 2024 for comparable programs will be much higher than in universities elsewhere in Canada. We are working to recruit a greater number of prospective students from Quebec or from countries around the world to fill the places normally taken by students from the rest of Canada. However, our estimates show that in the best-case scenario, we will fill no more than 80 per cent of these spaces, and in the worst-case scenario, we will fill no more than 20 per cent, thereby reducing the number of students coming to McGill.
Annual enrolment revenue will drop: Our analysis shows that the potential overall revenue loss in tuition fees will range from $42 million to $94 million annually. With respect to international student tuition fees, the loss will be $24.5 million. The financial impact of the changes to tuition fees for Canadian students from outside Quebec will depend on many variables but we estimate a loss of at least 20 per cent of those students, and up to 80 per cent, which translates into an annual loss of between $17.6 million and $69.8 million.
Some Faculties will lose all their students from the rest of Canada, with no ability to replace them: The consequences will be especially devastating for the Schulich School of Music, which has an undergraduate student population composed of almost 40 per cent from the rest of Canada. The new tuition fee will likely be cost-prohibitive for new students and will place the School in jeopardy. The Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the Faculty of Education and the B.A. & Sc. interfaculty programs will also be severely affected.
Measures will have to be implemented to protect McGill’s financial stability: Given the financial uncertainty the new tuition policy will bring, it will be necessary to implement some measures including a hiring freeze, job reductions that could reach between 650 and 700, a deferral of planned expenditures and additional non-salary reductions in expenditures. Of course, we will do everything in our power to minimize any future job reductions.
Our ability to move forward with major infrastructure projects will be compromised: The projected revenue loss will reduce McGill’s borrowing limit and capacity to service debt. In addition, the cost of borrowing money to fund infrastructure projects will increase for the University. These increased costs may force us to suspend some projects. McGill’s long-term borrowing cost has already increased following the Government’s announcement.
Varsity teams will see a major impact: we may have to suspend or cut some McGill Redbirds and Martlets teams, given that a third of our student-athletes are from out-of-province.
More than ever, Quebec needs a network of vibrant universities. Each institution brings a unique value to society, has its own identity and plays a distinct role to strengthen Quebec. We need all our universities to be strong for the economy to grow, to give us the means to promote French, to protect our culture and to maintain our enviable quality of life.
To attract talent and investment to Quebec, to be influential on the global stage and to secure a bright future for generations to come, a great university system is essential. Additional investment is needed rather than changes that simply redistribute money throughout the system. Pierre Fortin, Professor Emeritus of Economic Sciences at UQAM, has estimated there is a $1.4 billion shortfall in funding of Quebec universities relative to their counterparts in the rest of Canada.
McGill is known here at home and throughout the world for the quality of its teaching and research: a legacy of excellence that continues to this day. Our reputation stems from our people – the incredible students, faculty and administrative and support staff who make up the diverse community that is McGill.
The uncertainty of the past few weeks only strengthens my resolve to ensure that McGill remains one of the world’s best universities, an institution that welcomes top students from every region of Quebec, from across Canada and from around the world.
Principal and Vice-Chancellor