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Concordia University cutting costs due to decline in enrolment

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Concordia University says enrolment issues are forcing significant cuts, especially in the face of incoming tuition hikes for out-of-province students.

In a memo sent to staff and faculty last week, Concordia officials said that after 10 years of growth, enrolment had declined in 2021, 2022 and 2023.

"Due to this drop in revenue, Concordia cannot meet its core operating costs, which consist mostly of salaries and the day-to-day operations that support teaching, research and student life. Inflation, which affects the cost of goods and services, as well as rising interest rates, employee benefits and salary costs, have also had a significant impact on the university's expenses," reads the letter, which Concordia shared with CTV News on Monday.

The university says it's aiming to cut its overall spending by 7.8 per cent. Measures include freezing the salaries of Concordia executives, continuing the hiring freeze for non-academic staff, and dipping into reserve funds, among others.

While the memo does not mention Quebec's plan to dramatically increase tuition costs for out-of-province and international students, the Concordia administration has previously said the hikes will drive new students away.

In fact, according to some, it already has.

"A couple of my friends wanted to come up here this year and now they've changed their minds because it's too much money compared to going to Ontario now," Concordia marketing student Dyland Buyers told CTV News.

The Coalition Avenir Québec government says the hikes are designed to protect the French language, arguing that too many non-French speaking students flood into Montreal only to leave after graduation.

But critics like engineering student Fatima Faisal say there are better ways to protect French that don't restrict academic opportunities: "Free French courses in universities and stuff like that would be better than a tuition hike."

Marwah Rizqy, the Quebec Liberal Party critic for higher education, accused the Legault government of trying to court French-speaking voters after a painful loss in October's by-election.

"But they're doing so by hurting institutions such as Concordia, McGill and Bishop's," she said.

Post-doctorate researcher Nadia Hausgather, who studies student movements, says the hike will only drive away lower-income people.

"The only people we invite as possible future students from outside Quebec will be the elite who can afford those fees," she said.

More than 33,000 students have signed a National Assembly petition to stop the hikes.

On Thursday, demonstrators are expected to gather at Concordia's downtown campus for another protest, demanding the province change course.

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