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Quebec may backtrack on university tuition hikes, increase by 33% instead: report

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Quebec seems ready to back down from its plan to double tuition prices for university students outside of the province in exchange for more ambitious francization programs at English-speaking universities.

La Presse is reporting that the Legault government will increase tuition by 33 per cent, meaning tuition would go from around $9,000 to $12,000 for students from the rest of Canada. 

The government still plans to maintain pricing for foreign students.

The report also said Bishops University could be exempt. The government is expected to make an official announcement on the fees next week.

Higher Education Minister Pascale Dery said the measures had two objectives: financial and linguistic.

She would not confirm the report of a reduced increase to CTV News, but said she is committed to balancing the imbalance between English and French universities.

"We are correcting that with the measures we announced," said Dery, who said the goal was for students, both international and Canadians outside Quebec, to speak French. 

She said they received the plan from universities in the province and the government is assessing it.

Quebec’s English universities have pitched new French-language courses, but Dery said they "don't go far enough," without specifying in what way.

"There are some targets that need to be put in," she said. "There are some goals that need to be put in. We need to make sure that the plan that we're working on is a good plan."

More than 33,000 people have signed a petition to halt the tuition hikes and many universities have said the hikes would be detrimental to university finances. 

STUDENTS ALREADY CHOOSING OTHER PROVINCES

Concordia University president Graham Carr would not comment on the reduced hikes, but said the changes to tuition fees, announced on Oct. 12, caused a major disruption to the university's recruitment activities for 2024. Those activities start in early September.

"We now understand that it will not be until December that we can expect full clarity on the new measures, making it impossible to communicate to prospective students with certainty," said Carr.

Carr said "talented students" are already opting to attend schools in other provinces and that it has been three weeks since the universities sent its proposal to the government.

"This shows that the complex issues around tuition fees require further discussions and for this reason we have asked that the implementation of any new measures be delayed until fall 2024 in order to provide the universities with a reasonable opportunity to adjust our recruitment strategies and communications," said Carr.  

'ADMIT THAT YOU MADE A MISTAKE': LIBERALS

Liberal education critic Marwah Rizqy said it’s time the CAQ admitted it made a mistake, saying it isn’t a "solid plan."

"We're asking again the government to back down. Just let it go. Just admit that you made a mistake and it's okay. Everyone can make mistakes but this one is hurting all of our universities," she said.

Parti Quebecois MNA Pascal Bérubé said it was a reflection of the CAQ's governing style.

"They decided to backtrack," said Bérubé. "This is obviously the CAQ style. They aim high and say they're going to do something very historical, something very special and then they like to backtrack. This is CAQ."

Quebec Solidaire's Ruba Ghazal agreed.

"Every day we hear the government step back and change the details of this measure," she said. 

- with files from CTV News Montreal's Kelly Greig

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