Starting in the fall of 2024, university tuition fees for Canadian students outside Quebec will surge, doubling from approximately $8,992 to $17,000, as announced by the Quebec government. The move comes as an effort to increase funding for the province’s French-language universities and to curb the trend of non-resident students opting for Quebec’s English-speaking institutions for cheaper education. The government also states that many out-of-province students benefit from Quebec’s preferential rates but leave after their studies.
Protecting the French Language
A prominent reason for the increase is the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) party’s argument of protecting the French language, especially in Montreal. The government believes many students come to Quebec to study in English and leave after graduation. Minister of the French language, Jean-François Roberge, states that the changes will “stop the decline of French in Montreal.” He adds that, “When tens of thousands of people arrive on the island of Montreal without a mastery of French, it’s obvious it can have an anglicizing effect on the metropolis.”
Pascale Déry, Quebec’s Minister of Higher Education, emphasized, “This is not a measure against anglophones. They will be able to come. It’s just that we’re not ready to continue funding that kind of policy. Funding $110 million for students that mostly are not staying here.” According to Déry, the tuition hike will bring in an estimated $110 million annually to the Quebec government. This additional revenue will be used in part to support the French-language university network.
Impacts on English Universities
English-language universities, which include renowned institutions such as McGill University, Concordia University, and Bishop’s University, have a higher proportion of out-of-province and international students compared to their French-speaking counterparts.
McGill law student Vanessa Erhirhie, who hails from Toronto, expressed her concerns, “Making sure that tuition is affordable for out-of-province students so they can also benefit from these great universities that Quebec has to offer is important.”
Bishop’s University, located in the Lennoxville borough of Sherbrooke, Que., anticipates significant repercussions. Principal and Vice-Chancellor Sébastien Lebel-Grenier indicated, “Almost 30 per cent of its student body comes from other provinces, and about 15 per cent are international students.” He continued, “We don’t see ourselves as a menace to the French language in Quebec. We see ourselves as being able to promote Quebec society.”
Déry mentioned plans to discuss the impending tuition changes with Bishop’s University, addressing their concerns and potentially exploring alternative solutions.
Exceptions to the Rule
While this policy will affect a significant number of students, there are exemptions. The tuition adjustment will not impact students coming to Quebec under international agreements, particularly those from countries like France and Belgium. Additionally, the new fees will not apply to medical students, PhD students, or those studying at the graduate level.