While it is difficult to sort through all the demands of the students protesting in Quebec (some have nothing to do with higher education), at the core they want to reduce, if not eliminate, tuition.
I can’t agree with this.
Higher education is both a private and a public good. Graduates will earn more than non-graduates; they will personally benefit in a significant way. It is only fair and reasonable that they contribute to the costs since they will reap the rewards.
And who exactly would be the beneficiary of free or low tuition? It would be those who can already afford to pay existing or even higher tuition. Quebec has robust programs to assist students in financial need; those requiring help can already get it. The student demands effectively subsidize the rich. How odd.
The research data is conclusive, while student debt is certainly a concern, financial need is not the primary barrier to enrolment in higher education.
What have the student accomplished with their protests:
The PQ, upon winning the election, froze tuition and then promptly cut grants to the universities in the middle of the fiscal year (a claw back). The result was a double hit for the universities when they were already struggling.
Yes I know there have been egregious financial failures and excesses among some universities. Heads have, and should, roll. Budgets should be balanced. Governments should help make this happen. Hold the feet of university administrators and their Boards to the fire. But at the same time, dowse some of the flames.
The PQ now want to raise tuition modestly. The financial woes for the universities will continue regardless.
As the HESA folks noted: “Congratulations to students on beating the government at checkers; too bad there’s actually a chess match going on.”
There is no question that in the rest of Canada the balance of financial responsibly for higher education has shifted from the government to the student. The result has been rising tuition and increased debt load. There has also been a rise in philanthropy as more and more of the budget shortfall is picked up through fundraising. Canada doesn’t have much of a tradition of alumni supporting their alma mater (unlike the US). Assuming we can (as we have for the most part) controlled for donors interference, this is a good thing.
The student protests and demands mask the real challenges of funding higher education in Quebec. This is a massive diversion. And the quality of higher education in Quebec will be the victim.