NEWS: Students protest tuition hikes

Jennifer Braun | Social Media Coordinator

Concordia students were among the thousands that took to the streets of Montreal to protest tuition fee hikes on Nov. 10. They voted on Nov. 3 to strike on the 10th and join the protest to fight the tuition hike. The Jean Charest Government declared a tuition fee increase of a total of 1,625 dollars within the next five years in Quebec with yearly increments of 325 dollars.

Concordia students met at Reggies, the university bar, on the morning of Nov. 10, and then marched on St. Catherine Street till Berri St. There they joined thousands of students, teachers and others, and continued their protest to Premier Jean Charest’s office on McGill College Ave.

Among the thousands who showed up to protest their reasons for attending varied. Some were concerned about graduating with a large amount of student debt. Others were worried that the increase might discourage people from enrolling in a university.

Dawson College student Farah Noun came to the protest for “her right to an education,” she explained. Noun was not completely convinced that the protest would make a difference. However “The more people that show up the bigger the impact will be,” Farah said. She added that “we can’t just stand around and not try. We need to stand for something.”

Concordia student Peter Keroloun was concerned with what the new funds would be going towards. “Are we going to pay more and get the same education,” Kerouloun questioned.

jhr executive interviewed Concordia University professor Felix Von Geyer at the protest. Von Geyer wished students good luck to try to beat the tuition fee hike. He believes that “politicians and imaginations should try and get together because students should not have to pay for an education.” “It compromises the quality of education,” Von Geyer added.



11 thoughts on “NEWS: Students protest tuition hikes

  1. It is startling how many people don’t understand the simple economics of the issue. Quebec universities have been running annual deficits (that is they take in less money than they spend), for the past half decade if not more. Yet, Quebec universities students only pay half of what the rest of Canadians pay for a university education. The government already provides a bit more than half of all university funding.

    How do these students propose the schools balance their budget without raising tuition, let alone get on the matter of improving the universities? International students alone have seen tuition hikes that make the local hikes look like peanuts.

    Paying for education “compromises” the quality of education? I have no idea how Von Goyer even makes that connection. Would Prof. Von Goyer provide higher quality education if he were to forego his salary so that students can receive cheaper education?

  2. I’d forego a pay rise…..The further comments weren’t all used and it’s no matter that they weren’t. So, let’s shoot from the hip in order to stimulate your thinking out of the staid and technocratic variety If Australia can increase its tax-free threshold threefold by introducing a $15/tonne carbon price, imagine what we could achieve in Canada. If Harper didn’t give a 2% GST cut and propose corporation tax cuts whose benefits won’t likely reach the real economy, why should students have to pay out.

    The quality of education is compromised when these students have to work so many damned hours per week to try to limit their debts etc that they do not have time for quality study and reading.

    Now, let’s think forward. In 1981 for every person retiring there were 6 people still in the workforce to pay their pension. By 2030 there will only be 3 people in the workforce. If you want to promote a better qualified and higher tax-paying society to fund these pension funds, perhaps penalizing the younger generation with direct tuition fees is not great policy. Great for the banks however who might payroll some politicians’ campaigns. Now, what would be fairer: increased tax rates for graduates once they start earning $30,000/year or large student loans?

    Also worth thinking that future generations might need to be spending their money on adapting to environmental issues inc. climate change so will they want to underwrite the pensions of a generation that did nothing to address these issues and left them with significant student loans to take into their futures which in the current economic climate, employment might not look so rosy anyhow. time to think about intergenerational rights and duties…..

    Felix von Geyer

  3. Thank you for replying. While I think it’s honorable that you would forego a pay raise to keep tuition costs low, some of your colleagues would probably not be so fond of the idea. I just find it intriguing that there are simultaneous strikes going on at Quebec universities, where the admin staffs are demanding higher salaries and benefits, and the students are demanding for tuition not to be raised. I remember professors a couple years back were also considering to strike for higher salaries/benefits. Something has to give. The school can’t pay more to its employees if it can’t fund itself with more money.

    I don’t disagree with you that there are things that can be done with our tax code to nudge us towards the right direction (I think a carbon tax is a good idea). I just don’t think it is as simple of a matter as raising taxes to pay for universities.

    I also don’t buy the idea that students working are compromising their quality of education. I worked full-time and went to school full-time and graduated with distinction, and I don’t think it was a time constraint that prevented me from getting even higher marks. Are most students really working full-time while studying to pay off their student debts? Let’s be honest here, the current undergrad’s course load does not require them to spend every waking moment of their life studying, and if most university students spent less time slacking off and partying and getting drunk, and more time studying, they would get “higher quality” education. You’re also leaving out the fact that some work experience might be beneficial to the growth of that student.

    If it is fairness that you worry about, then is it fair that all Canadians must fund the university education of a minority of Canadians (less than 25% actually have a university degree) with their hard earned tax money? If it is the aging demographics that you want to address, then how is using tax money to fund students studying something like English literature the most effective use of that investment into the future (I have nothing against people who choose the Arts, but from a pure economic standpoint, there’s not much utility right now)? What about the students that drop-out mid-studies? Do we just write off that cost?

    There has to be some responsibility here and contribution on the part of the students. They will be the people that will get the most direct benefit from their education (be it future earnings or experience). There also has to be some responsibility taken by the parents of these students in funding their own children’s education. If a student wants to study some random degree with little economic value, then it is neither fair to the tax-payer, nor useful for building that welfare state where the government provides generous benefits to its citizens. Sharing the cost of university education should make a student consider more carefully what they choose to study and how they approach their university experience.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want university education to only be affordable for the rich, but we have to strike a balance between the public good and personal responsibility.

    On a last note – about taxes. Don’t think high taxes have no effect on the economy. We are competing against other countries on a multitude of areas including taxes, and from my personal experience as a part of the company I work for, our decisions on where to open manufacturing plants and R&D centers consider the tax rates and benefits. No point funding all these grads only to have them go off and opening companies abroad.

  4. I do not agree with your point that you made that all students are party people and that all must spend their time going out and drinking. I never go out and work part time and still find it hard to find time for all school readings. On top of that, I have to pay for rent, food, clothes etc. My parents are not in a position to help me and unfortunately, I think you are living in a dream world and do not understand most university students.
    Many students choose to take up activities like clubs and extra curricular stuff and I believe that these activities also aid in the education of the student. School isn’t the only way to educate someone. I have learned essential public speaking, leadership and other skills from out of school activities. To top it off, you may not find some degrees of “economic value” but what about their social value? the economic system was not like this 200 years ago and it will not be 200 years from now, social advancement is needed. With your Neanderthal and capitalistic approach to life, you would be handing over universities to corporations for them to create their future workforce. Idiotic.
    Universities used to hubs for radical ideas where social good as well as deviance towards the system were born. Human social and scientific challenges were addressed daily and leaders were not made out of a cookie cutter, they emerged out of necessity.
    That’s what leaders are for. There is a certain arrogance about a leader that has gotten to where he/she without much inspiration.

    Leaders are born out of necessity not hunger for power or any other reason. The arrogance that today’s leaders show is also not a leadership quality. Leaders are supposed to be facilitators, not controllers or authoritarians.
    I still have much to learn but I do know a few things. Corporations have to get out of the university circuit and try to build the leaders of tomorrow build themselves through good, affordable and worry-free education. These people will stand up when their time comes, naturally, as cultivated leaders.

    I’m sorry but I will not allow for school to get in the way of my education or those of my children. As ironic as that sounds.

  5. Your last line IS ironic. No one is forcing you nor your children to go to university. You pointing out that you learned a lot of essential skills outside of school doesn’t really support the case for making school any more affordable. If anything, you’re taking the opposite side.

    Tell me, if this is not an economics issue then what is it?

    Quebec universities don’t have enough funding to cover their expenses and therefore are looking for ways to increase funding. The question that is being asked and debated right now is who should pay: the Quebec students directly benefiting from the university education (who already pay the lowest tuition rates in Canada), or society and more specifically tax-paying citizens as a whole (who already pay the majority of the tuition bill).

    Von Goyer argued above that society (the state, the government, tax payers, etc.) should pay for it because of an economics issue brought on by demographic change (more old people and less young people, resulting in fewer productive tax-paying people funding ever growing social programs that care for the elderly). If it is not the economic value of a degree that matters in this scenario, then what is? This mysterious “social” value you speak of? These social programs require money to fund itself. If it isn’t the economic benefit (tax money) from the university education that matters, then why should society provide economic support (money) for it?

    What about the ever-widening wealth and income gap? What about the fact that on average, people with a university education have higher salaries and lower unemployment rates? These are the arguments you hear for affordable university education. If it is not the economic value of a degree that matters in this situation, then what matters?

    I am under no illusion that capitalism is a perfect system, but what is going on right now in western society isn’t that it is getting more capitalistic. We might not be able to predict what our economic system is in 200 years, but we can’t predict what we will be of more “social value” in 200 years either. That is besides the point. I am not arguing whether an engineering degree or a business degree or an arts degree is more important. I’m arguing that if we want to make an investment in university education as a whole to make tuition more affordable for everyone using people’s hard-earned tax money, then it should be of some benefit to the tax-payer who you are asking to pay for it!

    I don’t get your arguments on the leaders thing. What relevance does it have to do with this whole debate? Leaders existed before university education, outside of university education, and everywhere. What does that have anything to do with who should pay for university?

    • Interesting points from BN and I love the search for the separation or is it unity between money and society? The facts are, you can print money. You can’t print value. Education is value – it should help you to realize and empower yourself and others. Money actually does grow on trees with a little intermingling from the mines. But does it create value? We could easily end up in a delicious elongation of the resource curse argument… FvG

      • Money is just a “store of value”, and printing more of it doesn’t give you any more value. Instead, it just makes every dollar you have less valuable (and everything you buy more expensive in dollar-terms, including a university education). Printing money and the accompanying inflation are essentially a tax on the citizens of the country printing more money. You work your butt off in exchange for money, save prudently, and in the future your savings can buy less than it can today. Printing money is essentially cutting more pieces in the national pie and doesn’t make the pie any bigger.

        I’m not sure how the ability to print money changes the argument of who pays for university. Whether it’s printing more money or taxing more for the sake of funding university education for all, all the citizens pay as a whole, whether it’s making your savings, salary, and purchasing power worth less, or forking over more of your income to our beloved government.

  6. In that case, why am I paying for old people? They should just pay for themselves since they are the ones benefitting most from the money that is going to them. Or sick people? there is no history of cancer or any chronic history in my family so why should I have to pay for someone else thats sick? Should people be screened in terms of medical family history so that they can be taxed more since they are more likely to take advantage of the free medicare system that we all pay for?
    My point about leaders is that the university is pretty much handing over its control to corporations who want to build their work force by asserting that one degree is more economically important then another.
    Also the “other provinces pay more” argument is not valid. In Quebec we also do lots of other things that the rest of Canada doesn’t.
    We speak French, we have a civil law system, we have CEGEPS before university, 83% of our homes are powered by renewable hydroelectric energy and oh yeah… We have been trying to differentiate ourselves from the rest of Canada since the British were still riding all of our asses.
    Raising tuition because the rest of Canada has higher fees would mean that we should technically remove all of the other things that make Quebec different from Canada. Right?
    So yeah, stop blaming the students for this uproar, the tuition fee hikes isn’t only about the money. It is about the economic identity of Quebec, about respecting Quebec’s heritage and about not letting a government that has a 28% approval rating take away one of the things that we’re proud of!
    Yes, tuition is cheap in Quebec but it isn’t something to fix, it’s something to show off as an example of true accessibility to higher education!
    Everyone benefits from having an educated population able to understand and address future problems. Your model is neither socially, environmentally or logically sustainable and no matter how you look at it, it will eventually penalize the poor and widen that economic gap you mentioned. Your arguments sound a lot like the ones of the people that opposed Tommy Douglas when he was trying to create a universal free healthcare system, in the end, he was right and I think that we would be in the same shoes as the Americans if that bill wasn’t passed.

  7. Also don’t you think that mismanagement of university funds has to play into this at all? There are a countless amount of people in university politics as well as in the administration that leave with huge amounts of money. All I see here is taking more money from the students to have to be mismanaged by the universities themselves. When Concordia’s president stepped down for “personal reasons” she left the school with 1.4 million dollars and what did the university do about it? Nothing! With nearly $10 million spent on severances and buyouts of senior administrators over the previous decade, the legitimacy of the Board’s 23 external members was put into question as spending has lost control.

    The same thing can be found all across Quebec universities.

  8. MGB,

    I don’t disagree with you that there are issues on the mismanagement of funds at the universities, and many inefficiencies in the system that can and should be worked out to save money.

    I also am not advocating privatizing the entire system. I just want a more “balanced” approach, where society and the individual both take a part of the responsibility of funding education. Even in the rest of Canada where tuition is higher, they aren’t paying the ridiculous $20-$30K a year in tuition our American neighbours pay at the private universities.

    What you have to realize is that “free university” isn’t free. Someone pays for it. In the case of Quebec, the majority of the responsibility is on the tax-paying citizens, while the students directly benefiting from that education are paying the least relative to the rest of Canada. It isn’t some mysterious entity that funds it, it’s your parents, your neighbours, and every tax-paying citizen in the province (even if they and their kids never attend university).

    Being “different” for the sake of being different is not a good within itself. The problem here is that the universities believe they don’t have enough funding (and it’s well documented that they spend more than they take in). There’s two sides to the equation of course – you can close the gap by either cutting spending or raising revenue (through more public funding or higher tuitions), or do both. Except, you can only cut spending so far.

    Well-funded universities with bigger budgets can provide better facilities, better resources for their students, better services, better staff, and better professors. The ability to pay higher salaries is one way to attract better professors. It is no secret why my friend who is studying at Stanford has a former U.S. Secretary of State as a professor, or why they can go on foreign academic trips to meet foreign heads of states, Fortune 500 CEO’s, or world renowned artists: they are more well-funded.

    You get what you pay for (for the most part).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s