Last week, thousands of Québécois CEGEP and university students went on strike. Unsurprisingly, the issue is tuition hikes. As it is, average annual university tuition in Québec is the lowest in the country. In fact, the province has had a tuition freeze for 33 of the past 43 years. However, while student costs have remained artificially low, university operating costs have increased and the province is no longer capable of shouldering this excessive burden. I believe the student bodies, and the students themselves who are militantly resisting tuition hikes, are deceiving themselves and sabotaging the future of their state finances.
The government plan is to increase tuition by $325 per year, for five years. This means an increase of the average tuition of $2,168 per year to $3,793, which would still be among the lowest rates in the country. As the Quebec Minister of Finance pointed out, student tuition today represents only 13 per cent of the universities’ revenue, as opposed to 26 per cent back in the 1960s (after which point the freezes largely came into effect). It is unrealistic to expect Québec, one of the most socialist and taxed regions of North America, to further sustain what amounts to university student subsidies. The government simply cannot afford it, and it is indeed taking a brave step by prioritizing the fiscal health of Quebec. Indeed, $3,793 per year in tuition is but a token investment in your own future.
The striking students believe that government should be the full provider of everything. What the students don’t understand is that the government cannot cough up money out of the blue and that at this point it’s simply impossible for the province to keep up its spending.
The strikers have grown up to believe that government can and should provide for everything that they need, a psyche born out of a long history of cultural revolution. Is it really surprising that Quebec is now one of the most fiscally unstable provinces? It is not a coincidence that last year saw the founding of a new fiscally conservative party in the province (Coalition Avenir Québec). Whether or not you are right-leaning, it is impossible to deny that this party has a point when it says Quebec cannot sustain its current expenditures. The math is undeniable.
The Québécois students are renowned for their complaining attitude, accusing the government of withholding student rights and money – indeed, these current strikes have had precedents as recent as last year. These students are like Canada’s Tea Party movement, but in reverse: government is actually not big enough, nor does it spend enough. It’s amazing that the “grieving” students cannot grasp that Quebec underwent an economic downturn, as did every other Western state.. University tuition hike is never a desirable option, but given the unfortunate facts on Quebec’s finances and the virtually negligible student tuition fees, it is a necessity to see students take on a greater burden for their education.