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Letter to the editor: Tuition deregulation is a gamble at best, destructive at worst

The Tribune’s editorial, “Deregulation at McGill should not necessitate an increase in international student tuition,” is inaccurate and unrealistic in depicting what tuition deregulation would entail for students.

First, it fails to clearly differentiate between equalization and deregulation policies; it is possible to eliminate the equalization model in Quebec without deregulating tuition fees. It also does not recognize the historical context of this system, which has been central in establishing francophone post-secondary education across the province. If Quebec international tuition fees primarily benefit McGill, mobilization against future increases might also be isolated to our campus.

In an earlier Tribune article, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Vice-President (VP) University Affairs, Chloe Rourke,  is clearly quoted as stating, “Every time tuition has been deregulated we have seen an immediate increase in tuition for international students.” While the university emphasizes the benefits of ending equalization, they are reticent to acknowledge the substantial increases made to fees in all deregulated programs, or the inevitable decrease in financial accessibility that follows. According to the Scholarships and Student Aid Office, despite increases to our financial aid program, in the  2013-2014 school yearthis covered only 25 per cent of tuition fees for international students in deregulated programs, compared to 54 per cent in regulated programs.

There is a particular risk of McGill using “market rates” to match international tuition to other Canadian or even American institutions. This follows the trend of deregulation here and at other schools, such as the University of British Columbia. If current trends continue, within a decade McGill programs deregulated in 2008 will have nearly tripled in cost. This is a reactionary process that shifts the burden of government cuts to students, rather than a real contribution towards improving the quality of education.

Thus, while it may be tempting to suggest that “McGill stands to benefit from deregulation,” it is unlikely that this scenario includes the diverse cohort of less privileged international students alluded to in the editorial. While the piece claims that international students have been more open to tuition increases, it is likely that those least opposed to hikes are also those who can already afford them.

We must be particularly wary of such assertions in our current climate, where the future plans of the administration are opaque at best. As student representatives, we are extremely concerned with both the quality and accessibility of our educational experience for a diverse student body. Significant budget cuts have severely threatened both of these values, and we are calling on the University to oppose provincial austerity measures instead of further offloading their impact on to students. Tuition increases, much like austerity, are not an economic necessity but a political choice.

Alex Kpeglo-Hennessy (U3 Honours Political Science) and Erin Sobat (U3 History) are the Arts undergraduate senators this year. They can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected]. This letter is co-signed by other members of the SSMU Senate Caucus: Benjamin Brunot (Law), Parvesh Chainani (Education), and David Benrimoh (medicine)

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