Text signed by Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal and published in Le Devoir, The Gazette and in the Métro. March 20, 2012.
March 12, 2012
Lifting the cap on tuition fees: our economy and our future graduates will be the big winners
In February 2010, sixteen committed citizens of Quebec society, concerned with the future of higher learning in Quebec and involved in the political, economic, university, and student milieus, joined together to present a new “pact for the competitive funding of our universities.”
This pact proposed an increase in university funding while remaining true to the fundamental values of Quebec society, namely accessibility, fairness, excellence, and effectiveness. The pact called for lifting the cap on tuition fees, along with strengthening programs that support accessibility, and strong government commitment to maintaining the current level of public funding.
In tabling the last budget, the Government of Quebec echoed this pact and finally broke a taboo that is detrimental to our society: it conclusively determined that a high-quality university education is a profitable investment for students.
Given that we must ensure that everyone does their fair share, the creation of the university investment fund Placements Universités was also a positive lever for increasing private sector support—already present in the form of partnerships—and stimulating the emergence of a more generous culture of philanthropy for universities.
Quebec’s economic prosperity is everyone’s business. The government already foots over 50% of the bill, more than everywhere else in Canada. And the government is all of us. Students, for their part, only bear 12.7% of the cost of their university education, although they are its first and main beneficiaries. The effort being asked of students would raise their contribution to 17% of the total cost in 5 years. It’s completely reasonable, especially given that university graduates will earn some $750,000 more in their working lives than those with no higher education.
Tuition fees are one of the best personal investments one can make.
Conversely, the decision of some students to strike is one of the worst possible options, both for themselves and for society. If students have to make up their courses during the summer season, our businesses will obviously be deprived of a major labour pool. But it is the students themselves who will suffer most of all, as they will be depriving themselves of the experience and revenue that a summer job can generate. In fact, a single week of work can allow a student to cover more than the planned annual fee hike.
As for those who are completing their studies, they will simply enter the job market at a later date. It’s nothing too dramatic, of course, but it is an unnecessary cost in light of a good collective decision taken for the right reasons.
The government has indicated it does not intend to go back on its decision to lift the cap on tuition fees. It is a responsible, just, and fair decision. In the long term, our economy and our future graduates will be the big winners. And Montréal can thereby hope to maintain its position as a university metropolis par excellence.
The pact for the competitive funding of our universities is available at the following URL: http://www.ccmm.qc.ca/documents/salleDePresse/2009_2010/pacte/pacte-financement-universites_fr.pdf (in French only).
President and CEO
Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal