Applying program-based increases in tuition fees would allow Quebec to catch up one fourth of its lag compared to the Canadian average

    MONTREAL, Oct. 20 /CNW Telbec/ - Increasing tuition fees on a per-program
basis instead of applying a standard, global increase would allow the Quebec
government to collect a quarter of the amount that the province would
otherwise obtain by matching its tuition fees with the average Canadian fees.
This increase would be directed to the long-term financing of universities,
increasing their overall revenue by $110 million a year. Such a change could
be implemented from 2012 to 2017, giving students time to adapt. Even if fees
for some programs would probably increase further later on, they would not
affect access to post-secondary education were they tied to an income-based
repayment program for underprivileged students.
    In an Economic Note released today, author Mathieu Laberge, an economist
at the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI), suggests launching this line of
thought right away to make "a clear first step towards a less arbitrary policy
for setting tuition fees."

     Additional annual amount collected in tuition fees for each Quebec
           university after the proposed reform (in 2007 dollars)

    University                                             Additional amount
    Concordia University                                         $10,125,686
    Université Laval                                             $21,077,191
    McGill University                                            $16,966,981
    Université de Montréal                                       $27,244,759
    Université de Sherbrooke                                      $9,687,851
    Université du Québec à Montréal                               $8,225,917
    Bishop's University                                           $1,063,670
    HEC Montréal                                                    $556,848
    Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal                               $3,548,355
    Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue                   $511,201
    Université du Québec à Chicoutimi                             $1,679,180
    Université du Québec en Outaouais                               $914,807
    Université du Québec à Rimouski                               $1,454,086
    Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières                         $3,649,880
    Ecole de technologie supérieure                               $3,394,180
    TOTAL:                                                      $110,100,592

    Note: The detail of revenues by area of study for each university is
    available at

    A new approach for tuition fees

    Tuition fees could be set in relation to the cost of education. Students
in fields that require advanced equipment or more expensive human resources
could see their fees rise. On the other hand, students in less costly fields
would see theirs rise more slowly, or even drop. In such a scenario, tuition
fees for all fields would match the share of the costs paid by students in
social sciences and management in 2007-2008 (38.1 percent). Fees for the
social sciences would therefore not change, while those for humanities would
decrease slightly and those for medicine would rise substantially. "For the
first time in Quebec," says the study's author, "each student would pay a fair
share of their education costs."
    At present, since all post-secondary students pay the same tuition fees,
the government bears the difference in the cost of training. For example, in
2007-2008, medical and veterinary students paid 12.3 percent and 5.4 percent,
respectively, of their training costs while humanities students paid
40 percent. Under the current system of standardized tuition fees, students in
a field requiring more costly training benefit from a larger implicit subsidy.
    It should also be noted that the fields for which fees would rise most
are generally those with the highest revenue potential-a sufficient incentive
to prevent a shortage of students in these areas.

    Maintaining access to post-secondary education

    An income-based student loan repayment program (IBR) should go
hand-in-hand with this reform to reduce its impact on underprivileged
students. The IBR would be flexible enough to take into account factors such
as the amount of debt to be incurred, the income of the former student and the
interest rate. The IBR could also be integrated in the income tax
system-payments being added to taxes due at the end of the fiscal year.
Several countries have set up various forms of IBRs, suggesting that such a
program can readily adapt to different education systems.

    Current funding for universities is inadequate

    It is impossible to predict the prevailing policy for tuition fees for
post-secondary education after 2012. The Quebec government is proposing to
raise fees by $50/semester until 2011-2012, meaning that students in Quebec
will pay $2,024 in tuition fees per year (in 2007 dollars) versus $2,168 in
1994-1995. As such, by 2012, these increases will still only represent less
than half the Canadian average for the last year of available figures
(2007-2008), and tuition fees for students in Quebec will still be less than
in 1994-1995, taking inflation into account.
    Mathieu Laberge, author of the Economic Note Tuition fees and the
long-term financing of universities, is an economist at MEI and holds a
master's degree in econometrics and international economics from the
University of Nottingham.
    The full text is available free of charge at

For further information:

For further information: or interview requests: André Valiquette,
Director of Communications, Institut économique de Montréal, (514) 273-0969,
ex.  2225, Cell: (514) 574-0969,

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