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Quebec to nearly double tuition fees for out-of-province students in move to protect French

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Tuition fees for non-Quebec university students are set to nearly double next year as the provincial government clamps down on English-speaking newcomers.

The cost of studying for non-Quebec students at all universities will increase from about $9,000 to $17,000 per year beginning in the fall of 2024, Quebec's Minister of Higher Education Pascale Déry officially announced Friday.

She says the cost is equivalent to what their education costs the Quebec government.

International students will have to pay a minimum of $20,000.

Institutions that will be hardest hit by the new measure are Quebec's three English universities — McGill, Concordia, and Bishop's — since they receive much higher numbers of out-of-province students than francophone universities.

The ruling Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) party argues it wants to protect the French language, particularly in Montreal, by making it more expensive for the large number of students who the government believes come to Quebec to study in English only to leave after graduating.

"This is not a measure against anglophones," Déry said at a news conference.

"I want to be clear on that. I'm not closing the door to any anglophone students who want to come to McGill, Concordia, or Bishop's. 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."

Déry says the savings from this new policy will go into the French post-secondary school network. 

The measure does not apply to medical students or PhD students, but it will apply to all undergraduate and graduate programs, including Master's programs. Some students will be exempt from the higher fee, including students covered by international agreements. For example, those coming from France and Belgium, the government said.

MCGILL, CONCORDIA 'DISAPPOINTED' BY NEW POLICY

Concordia University said Friday it was never consulted by the government before the announcement and that it is "disappointed" with the new policy — one that it says will hurt Montreal's reputation as a world-renowned university city.

"These measures … will have a big impact on Concordia and will unfortunately discourage thousands of students, out of province and international, from coming to study in Quebec. These measures will make education in Quebec unaffordable for many students," the university said in a statement to CTV News.

"Some numbers that have been presented to justify these measures are inaccurate: most out of province students already pay higher tuition fees in Quebec, with the exception of a few programs (law, medicine) in Ontario and Alberta. International students also already pay higher tuition fees. The government of Quebec seem to assume that out-of-province and international students will continue to come to Quebec in the same numbers and are basing their financial redistribution on this. We expect a drop in enrolment from these students which will mean less funding in general for the entire network of universities."

McGill University's principal and vice-chancellor, Deep Saini, said he was also "very disappointed" by Friday's announcement

"A thriving knowledge economy requires a global exchange of talent. The measures announced today will have a major, long-term effect on Quebec’s economy. The skilled people we attract and retain contribute significantly to Quebec and provide our businesses with the highly qualified workforce they so urgently need," Saini said in a written statement.

The measure is part of the Quebec government's action plan to reverse the decline of the use of French.

"Further significant steps" toward this goal are expected to be announced in the coming weeks, Quebec's French language minister Jean-François Roberge said.

Bishop's University in Sherbrooke, Que. insists the new measure will have a "detrimental" impact on the institution's bottom line.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Sébastien Lebel-Grenier said almost 30 per cent of its student body comes from other provinces, and about 15 per cent are international students.

"We don't see ourselves as a menace to the French language in Quebec. We see ourselves as being able to promote Quebec society and making sure that people from all over Canada and all over the world are a structuring and dynamic force for the betterment of our society," Lebel-Grenier told CTV News on Thursday ahead of the formal announcement.

The higher education minister said she plans to speak with Bishop's about their concerns and to discuss possible alternatives. 

With files from CTV News Montreal's Rob Lurie

Correction

Update on Oct. 16, 2023: A previous version of this story stated that the tuition increase would apply only to Quebec's three English universities. In fact, the measure applies to non-Quebec students attending all universities across the province. The three English universities in Quebec are expected to be the ones affected most by the announcement since they typically receive the highest numbers of out-of-province students. 

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