Tuition Strike Ends the School Year Early for Many Quebec Students

Barry Lenson

Tuition Strike Ends the School Year Early for Many Quebec Students

Quebec Tuition Strike Ends the School Year Early for Many Students  Student protestors in Quebec province have raised such a ruckus over tuition hikes that the provincial government just shut down many of the province’s French-speaking colleges and universities. You can read all about it in The New York Times or The Montreal Gazette. Here are the outlines of the story . . . 

  • Student protests have been raging for more than three months. Students have blocked campus buildings and classrooms. On one occasion they shut down the Montreal subway system with smoke bombs. On another, they occupied a highway and brought traffic to a halt.   
  • Quebec’s Minister of Education resigned on May 14 because she had been unable to end the crisis. 
  • Several student organizations are protesting. One of them is calling for all tuition to be abolished. 
  • Classes might resume in August. The province would like to offer students the option of coming back to class at that time to finish up any coursework that was disrupted by the protests. 

And Here’s the Really Shocking Part

What kind of tuition increase are the students protesting? They have brought their educational system to a near-standstill because . . . 

The Quebec government wants to increase annual tuition of $2,168 (Canadian) for in-province students by $325 every year, for five years. 

That’s right. Students are protesting because their 2011-2012 tuition bill of $2,168 will rise to $2,493 next year, to $2,818 the year after that, and so on, for five years.   

Meanwhile down here in the States, most students barely raise a word of protest when asked to pay tuition fees that are dramatically higher than that. Going into the 2011-2012 academic year, for example, students in the California State system accepted a 12% tuition increase that raised tuition to about $5,400. There were protests and occupations, sure. But colleges were not shut down. 

And let’s not even venture into a full discussion of costs at private American colleges. To give just one example, Yale University has just announced that its costs will jump about 5% next year. Tuition will increase from $40,500 to $42,300, and room and board will rise from $5,850 to $7,150. 

I don’t see any Yale students swarming across highways or blocking classroom buildings. For all I know, they haven’t even curtailed their spending at Brooks Brothers. Sure, some people probably think that Quebec students are protesting too aggressively about a tuition hike of $325 a year. In letters to the Montreal Gazette, some Quebecers are saying just that. 

But here’s another thought. Why do so many American students shrug and pay anything they are asked to, without a whimper of protest?

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