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Quebec tuition hike: McGill, Concordia universities file lawsuits

WATCH: Montreal's two English-language universities are suing the Quebec government over tuition hikes targeting out of province students. In separate lawsuits, both Concordia and McGill universities claim the government's move constitutes discrimination under the province's Charter of Rights and freedoms. Global's Phil Carpenter reports. – Feb 23, 2024

McGill University and Concordia University are suing the Quebec government over its plan to raise tuition for out-of-province students by about 30 per cent.

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The move Friday comes months after the Legault government first announced last October it would hike fees. The new rates would bring tuition fees to $12,000 from roughly $9,000 for students who hail from outside the province.

In separate lawsuits, the two Montreal universities say the government’s decision constitutes discrimination under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that the hikes have damaged the schools’ reputations.

Both universities have said they’ve recorded significant drop in applications since last fall and have warned it could trigger a steep drop in enrollment and devastate their finances.

McGill claims it has seen a 20 per cent decrease in applications from Canadian students outside of Quebec compared with the previous year.

McGill president and vice chancellor Deep Saini said the university’s administration would have “greatly preferred” not to take the matter to the courts, but it has “run out of viable alternatives.”

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“Given this extraordinary situation, we have no choice but to take extraordinary action. We tried our utmost to work in partnership with the government,” Saini said in a statement.

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McGill and Concordia are also challenging the new funding model for international students — under which the schools will be charged $20,000 for every foreign student admitted — with the money going to French-language universities.

Graham Carr, Concordia’s president and vice-chancellor, penned a public letter to the community Friday saying the university has “no choice but to pursue a just outcome through legal action.”

“We do not enter this process lightly,” Carr said, adding that Concordia tried to work with the province “in good faith” throughout the fall.

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“Although the government reduced its initial proposed tuition increase for out-of-province students, it never worked with us in any substantive way to hear, let alone address, our wide-ranging concerns.”

The Quebec government has defended the plan, saying the increase was imposed, in part, because there are too many people who speak English in Montreal. Quebec’s only other English university, Bishop’s, is exempted from the hike because it is outside Montreal.

The office for Higher Education Minister Pascale Déry said in a statement Friday that it is reviewing the lawsuits, but that it won’t comment since the case is now before the courts.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault’s office said it would not comment on the lawsuits.

— with files from The Canadian Press


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