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Tuition fees: Quebec's English-language universities submit new proposal

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Quebec's English-language universities have made a so-called "improved" proposal to the Legault government regarding tuition fee increases for new international students and students from other Canadian provinces.

The provincial government announced on Oct. 13 that Canadian students who begin their studies in the fall of 2024 would pay the equivalent of what their education costs the government - $17,000 per year, instead of the current $9,000.

International students will have to pay $20,000 in tuition fees.

On Saturday morning, Bishop's University, Concordia University and McGill University presented the CAQ government with a new offer proposing tuition fee increases for different disciplines.

Specifically, the proposal suggests that students in the arts, sciences, education, nursing, psychology and agriculture programs - which account for 79 per cent of students outside Quebec - pay $9,000 in tuition fees.

At a press conference on Saturday morning, Fabrice Labeau, senior associate vice-principal at McGill University, pointed out that fees for these programs in other provinces amount to around $6,000 a year.

In the English-language universities' proposal, students in engineering, computer science and business administration would have to pay $14,000. That group represents 16 per cent of Canadian students outside Quebec at the universities concerned. By comparison, students at the Universities of Toronto and British Columbia have to pay $14,500 and nearly $8,000 respectively.

The top tier for students in medicine, dentistry, law and pharmacy would be $20,000, well below the fees in other provinces, Labeau acknowledged, but pointed out that they represent only 5 per cent of their Canadian clientele outside Quebec.

McGill, Concordia and Bishop's argue that their proposal is a "compromise aimed at achieving the objectives of promoting and protecting the French language."

To that end, they plan to roll out a francization program aimed at ensuring that 40 per cent of non-French-speaking students achieve a level 6 in French upon graduation, considered an intermediate level according to the Échelle québécoise des niveaux de compétence en français, or Quebec scale of French skill levels.

English-language universities say the provincial government's October announcement of potential increases is already having an impact on applications from Canadian students outside Quebec. McGill University reported a 20 per cent drop in applications compared to the same time last year, and Concordia University a 16 per cent drop.

- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Dec. 9, 2023.

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