A pact for the competitive funding of our universities

MONTREAL, Feb. 23 /CNW Telbec/ - Sixteen citizens of Quebec society, concerned with the future of higher learning in Quebec and involved in the political, economic, university and student milieus, have joined together today to present a "pact for the competitive funding of our universities."

This pact calls for collective mobilization in order to increase the funding of our universities while remaining true to our fundamental values in Quebec, namely accessibility, fairness, excellence, and effectiveness. The pact therefore calls for lifting the cap on tuition fees, along with the strengthening of programs that support accessibility, and a strong government commitment to maintaining the current level of public funding.

SIGNING PARTIES FROM DIVERSE BACKGROUNDS

The signatories of the pact from the political sphere are: Mr. Michel Audet, former Finance Minister of Quebec; Me Lucien Bouchard, former Premier of Quebec; Mr. Joseph Facal, former President of the Treasury Board; and Ms. Monique Jérôme-Forget, former Finance Minister of Quebec and former President of the Treasury Board.

Members from the business milieu are: Ms. Françoise Bertrand, President and CEO of the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec; Mr. Yves-Thomas Dorval, President of the Quebec Employers' Council; and Mr. Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.

Several former leaders of students' associations have also joined this initiative: Ms. Julie Bouchard, former President of the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ) and the Fédération des associations étudiantes du campus de l'Université de Montréal (FAÉCUM); Mr. Youri Chassin, former President of the Fédération étudiante de l'Université de Sherbrooke (FEUS), former Vice-President of University Affairs for the Quebec Federation of University Students (FEUQ), and former member of the Conseil permanent de la jeunesse; Mr. Hugo Jolette, former President of the Association générale étudiante de l'Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (AGEUQAT) and former Treasurer of the Quebec Federation of University Students (FEUQ); and Mr. Patrick Lebel, former President of the Fédération des associations étudiantes du campus de l'Université de Montréal (FAÉCUM) and of the Conseil permanent de la jeunesse.

Finally, the university milieu is also present, represented by: Mr. Marcel Boyer, Professor Emeritus at Université de Montréal; Mr. Pierre Fortin, Professor Emeritus at Université du Québec à Montréal; Mr. Michel Gervais, former Rector of Université Laval; Mr. Robert Lacroix, former Rector of Université de Montréal; and Mr. Claude Montmarquette, Professor Emeritus at Université de Montréal.

ENSURING QUEBEC'S ECONOMIC PROSPERITY

This initiative is the result of a particularly troublesome fact: in an era of international competitiveness, in which prosperity increasingly rests on an ability to use knowledge, the under-funding of our universities is a real threat to Quebec's prosperity.

"Quebec's universities are hurting. The condition is not incurable, but it is chronic. This is why we are strongly encouraging all Quebecers to commit themselves to supporting our universities. We must quickly give them the financial health they need to carry out their fundamental mission for the future of our society," stated Me Lucien Bouchard.

"Quebec's approach to the funding of its universities is a failure. Not only must we realize this, we must above all remedy the situation before it is too late," added Mr. Robert Lacroix, former Rector of Université de Montréal.

The dangerous situation described by the pact's signatories requires an immediate response. It requires a collective acknowledgement of the challenges to be met, a spirit of openness in seeking solutions, and great courage to take action.

"Universities have a fundamental impact on the success or failure of an economic strategy based on knowledge. One of the keys to ensuring our prosperity will be the availability of a well-trained workforce that is able to develop and incorporate innovations that are essential to increasing productivity. Our companies will rush to hire the talents emerging from our institutions of higher learning," underscored Mr. Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.

Four major values guided the development of our proposal: accessibility, fairness, excellence, and effectiveness. This resulted in a three-part pact:

    
    - A strong government commitment to maintaining the current level of
      public funding in real terms.
    - Lifting the cap on tuition fees. As in the rest of North America,
      tuition fees should be differentiated according to the level and field
      of study to better reflect the cost of training and the variable return
      on the investment made in a university education. Working within
      relatively wide governmental safeguards, the establishment of tuition
      fees should be left up to each university.
    - A re-examination of the situation every five years.
    

"The question of accessibility is a vital one. And what our pact is proposing is to accompany the lifting of the cap on tuition fees with a targeted program to encourage accessibility, thereby respecting one of our major collective values," added Patrick Lebel, former president of the Fédération des associations étudiantes du campus de l'Université de Montréal (FAÉCUM) and of the Conseil permanent de la jeunesse.

A STRONG AND ABSOLUTE COMMITMENT TO MAINTAINING ACCESSIBILITY

The pact also includes measures that will strengthen existing accessibility support programs.

    
    - Each university will have to dedicate 30% of its additional revenue
      resulting from the increase in tuition fees to encouraging access to
      the university, which represents 170 million dollars added to the
      380 million dollars the government already dedicates to student aid.
    - The implementation of a system for paying off student loans that is
      proportional to the revenue earned by the eventual graduates.
    - Government commitment to setting aside the funds saved to encouraging
      scholastic success at all levels of study, notably through intense
      stay-in-school initiatives.
    

The full text of the pact for the competitive funding of our universities is available at the following URL: www.pactefinancementdesuniversites.info/ and on the Facebook page: http://www.facebook.pactefinancementdesuniversites.info/.

SOURCE PACTE POUR LE FINANCEMENT CONCURRENTIEL DE NOS UNIVERSITES

For further information: For further information: Sylvie Paquette, Coordinator, Media Relations, (514) 871-4000, extension 4015, sylvie.paquette@ccmm.qc.ca; Mathieu Laberge, Project Director, (514) 985-4000, extension 3110, mathieu.laberge@cirano.qc.ca

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PACTE POUR LE FINANCEMENT CONCURRENTIEL DE NOS UNIVERSITES

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