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Quebec university student unions joining forces to fight province's tuition hike

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Jessica Issac lives in Etobicoke, Ont., and was planning on sending her daughter to the studio arts program at Concordia even though it was a bit pricier than the other universities.

It may soon be a lot more after the Quebec government announced plans to nearly double tuition for out-of-province students. With the extra cost of housing, suddenly the cost for many is out of reach.

"You’re going from kind of $20-28,000 per year, and for a four-year course. That’s quite a bit and and it’s made of us reconsider even applying to Concordia, which was our top choice last week," Issac said.

The student unions of Concordia and McGill are coming together to denounce the CAQ's tuition hike because of fears that it will price-out many Canadian students and saddle them with more debt.

In a joint statement, student leaders from both universities wrote, "We ask that the province consider the obstacles that this will cause for access to education and the unnecessary financial strains on those who wish to study in our universities."

"It’s really important that education remains accessible and affordable," said Liam Gaither, vice-president of external at the Students' Society of McGill University.

The institution that might be most affected by the hike is Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Que., where 30 per cent of students are from outside the province.

"When we initially found out, we were fearful, and I would even say angry, for the future of the university," said Sophia Stacey, president of the Bishop's University Students Representative Council.

Stacey said they’re asking for a meeting with the government to justify the hike.

"I would say to minister Pascale Déry, who’s the minister of higher education in Quebec, that, as the minister, her mandate is to protect these institutions and the students who put their trust in them," she said.

The government maintains the new school fees will save taxpayers $110 million a year, even though the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal says out-of-province and international students bring in more than half a billion dollars to the local economy.

"The financial reality is that out-of-province students are paying into their education way more than the government is," Stacey said.

Student governments at all three of Quebec's English universities say if the government doesn’t back down, they’re prepared to mobilize.

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