A sense of activism has captured Quebec’s youth, a sense founded in an always sensible topic: tuition increases. Protest is always a manifestation of expression and of the freedom of its use, it should always be praised and this article will do so. However; roars, slogans, chants, and red pins have made arguments inaudible and overshadowed sustainable solutions to this topic. Tuition increases are a sensible topic, but also a very technical one. Education regardless of being a right or not, is funded with money, and the origins of this funding ought to be considered.
As an international student, who, with all humility and respect, pays over 500% of the Quebec tuition I must say I have always observed in awe and admiration the care and meritocratic nature of the educational establishment of Canada, in particular Quebec, who it should be noted, even after the tuition increase will be the province in Canada with the lowest tuition-rates. Today, it has a shortfall of 600 million CAD shortfall vis-à-vis the rest of the Canada’s provinces. This and the fact that increases have been frozen 33 out of the last 43 years shows the province’s commitment to restraining increases, resisting even to the rusting effects of inflation. There clearly has been a fall through in the status quo that has transformed the situation to an unsustainable one and something ought be done. How it should be done is the question to address, not tuition increases. Of course, this statement departs with the premise that we are all fighting to maintain the contemporary, first tier, quality standards of Canadian educational institutions. Questioning this would be an attack on progress, of generations and generation’s work; regress is always a symptom of mediocre performance. This is an advocacy against mediocrity, but also for sustainability.
A pragmatic and constructive approach has to be taken to solve this dilemma: a requirement for funds, but from where? This is not to say that tuition increase is the exact solution but it’s the first step taken by a part in a necessary process and our student reaction has fallen short of this problem’s needs. The impulse for a strike that seems to be contagiously disseminating is not a way out of this bifurcation. Reversing tuition increases does not reflect a solution, rather a trade off where fewer funds will impoverish the quality of our education, this is no solution to our problem but a condition of it.
So both parts, students and government, should tilt up their heads and look forward rather than looking down in negation. Given the sensibility of this plaintiff the government has to make itself accountable to the implementation and purpose of this increase. Rather then only vocalizing its policies it should make a greater effort to explain the importance and allocation of these funds. When you are told you are going to be paying more for something that you have been granted since you were born, it urges one to know why, and for what. The government’s behavior should also project itself as exemplary in nature with its policies. Aside from transparency, it should show indicators of austerity in a top-bottom form all along the ministry. Lets not forget that hundreds of thousands are being asked to sacrifice to austerity, the proponent of this, should be the first to reflect this.
It is completely logical that those who go through economic hardships stare at their 75% tuition increase with some defiance especially when they see that their president is receiving not only a multi-hundred thousand salary but also many other economic benefits. The ministry and its workers, all dedicates of education, are going to have to be ready to tighten their belts, as well as to show willingness to austerity in order to give meaning to their current stance. At the same time, in duty to its citizens it has to guarantee meritocracy within its institutions, income should not pass to equate educational availability, merit should. To ensure this, it needs to guarantee that the most affected percentile is compensated in some ways, whether it is by 1) increase in financial aid to those necessarily affected 2) increase availability of jobs that supplements the 1620 CAD hollow that it creates to the student and 3) incorporating students in university activities that would reduce its variable and managerial costs. These are just some ideas, but what is clear is that an alternative has to be offered to those who will hold the burden.
Students should be proud of the effort this country’s administration has done to preserve a first class education at unimaginable global prices. The increase, after its five-year gradual implementation, is going to mean a 135 monthly CAD per month, or 33 dollars weekly. For those already struggling it sure is a burden, but for many of us, I think we can sacrifice some time and choices. Three to five hours of work per week could get us that amount; but that’s speaking on the basics. We should be willing to sacrifice other choices as are holidays, an extra dress, or a new device to not mention the extra beer… Lets not get caught up on assumptions and start assimilating the reality: the status quo is unsustainable, and sacrifices have to be made in the name our education’s well being. Our goal is to guarantee all parts do sacrifices justly and justifiably.
The increasingly popular proposal of striking is by no means the solution. A strike is just going to lead to a dead-weight point of paralysis. Where no one will be conform and nothing resolved. Engagement, information and negotiation have to be enhanced because our problem is not tuition hikes; our problem is the maintenance of a quality education at the reach of all merits, of course, with due accountability to the source of this quality: economic resources.
– Lorenzo Garcia-Andrade Llamas
– Photo by Joey Shea