Quebec Student Strike

As someone that blogs extensively about the post-secondary student experience, and specifically about the Canadian scene quite often, I have tried to stay away from the contentious issue that is going on right now. I’m talking about the Quebec student strike.

For those of you that are not familiar with the situation, many Quebec students have taken fairly extreme activist stances in regards to a proposed tuition increase over the next few years. Here are a few facts about the situation (all taken from various Globe and Mail articles on the topic):

• Quebec has by far the cheapest tuition this side of Scandinavia (currently the average sits about $2500 per annum)
• The original deal seen a phased in 5 year increase, of $325 per year. Premier Charest as now amended this to a more gradual phase in over 7 years.
• Even after the full phase in, Quebec students would still have the cheapest university tuition in Canada at TODAY’s rates (not 2017’s rates).
• Over 200 hundred students have been arrested in protests since this tuition raise was announced.
• An extra $1.5 million worth of police efforts has been needed so far.
• Quebec announced a $3.8 billion deficit.
• In inflation-adjusted terms, today’s Quebec students pay less for a degree than they did in 1968.
• Quebec post-secondary graduation rates are amongst the lowest in Canada.

Quebec student strike

Quebec Student Strike – Excellent Ambassadors

I think the Quebec student strike is one of those issues that it is tough to feel neutral about (or even write neutrally about for that matter), so I’m not even going to try. I think what is going on in le belle province is atrocious. It is a black eye on students, a black eye on the province (although one that has had so many, I guess they’re used to it by now), and actually a black eye for Canada on an international stage as well. I mean, is there really any better example of entitlement that has run amok? The blatant disrespect to a Premier that is trying to make concessions and balance his responsibilities is disgraceful, and the violence directed at police officers is blatantly criminal and should be treated as such.

Education Is Free, a Degree/Diploma Isn’t

I’m currently a graduate student, and I was an undergrad not long ago. I am also a teacher. In any of these capacities, one might think I sympathize with the plight of students – and I do, but the reaction to this gradual increase in tuition has been too extreme to even label ridiculous. People like to argue that education is a right, and that school should be free. My response (which has been hardened as I watch the news on the Quebec student strike and see students attacking police officers who are just doing their jobs) is that education is a right – you should have the right to read whatever you want, discuss whatever you want, and get into study groups with whoever you want to interact with. No one should prevent you from becoming educated on a topic. That being said, a post-secondary certification is not merely becoming educated, is being recognized as having attained a certain standard. This is not a process that is free. It is currently subsidized to extremely high rates all across Canada and specifically in Quebec and I believe some of the burden of funding our post-secondary training should fall to those of us that are going to directly benefit from it (sure, you can argue that society indirectly benefits from more people being educated – that’s what the 70% subsidization rate is for).

Twisted Sense of Entitlement

It makes me sick to see those students declare war on the rest of society who is paying their bills for them. Do these propaganda leaders ever compare their situation to the post-secondary model just to the south of them for a little context? In the USA, it is not uncommon for tuition to run between 10K and 50K PER YEAR. In other words, you could get a whole undergrad degree at a top flight university like Laval for the price of one year at a community college or something similar. I’m not advocating for this sort of model, but I am saying that there are societies very similar to ours that don’t subsidize people nearly as much as our government does. My brother and sister-in-law took their education in the USA and came out of it with over 100K of student debt (and this was after receiving a substantial amount of scholarships). They rarely complained about it, as they knew the deal going in, and my BIL has worked really hard his first couple of years out of school (geologist) and I’m fairly certain he has the majority of the loans paid back already.

Make a Decision and Live With It

There are two approaches to post-secondary paths that I have discussed extensively on this blog. The first approach (that I would recommend) is to actually look at the job market and plan your post-secondary schooling around this reality. If you have a decent paying job coming out of school, we have some great student loan perks the debt should be fairly easy to pay off relative to what a lot of people have to go through. If you choose to take a liberal arts degree, then be aware of the economic realities around you. It is no one’s fault but your own if you do not make an educated decision.

The final piece to this rant is the idea that the extreme student groups that are part of the Quebec student strike honestly believe that society at large should fit the entire bill for their education. Not only this, but they truly feel that even as their province faces a structural deficit, they should be the priority. As debt numbers pile up, they hope to solve the problem by hitting police officers in the face. I don’t understand where they are coming from, I don’t know what other sides to the story there are (logical ones only of course). If feel sorry for all the other Quebec students that have gotten tarred with this proverbial brush. Please guys, we know you’re mad that the Canadiens aren’t looking so hot right now, and little old Winnipeg got a new hockey team before Quebec city, but please, put down your weapons and pick up a book. There are other authors out there besides Marx and Lenin, and the public taxpayer is paying to help you find you them.

About Teacher Man

TM is a self-professed nerd about all things related to personal finance. He can be found writing for My University Money, Young and Thrifty, and Canadian Personal Finance Blog. TM blogs in order to continue his quest for lifelong learning and hopefully to help others along the way.

15 Responses to Quebec Student Strike

  1. I hate entitlement programs. Once they get started they are bears to end, reduce or even restrain. Why is it that human beings feel that other people owe them money to do the things they want to do?

    • Teacher Man says:

      I hear ya Marie! I mean, some entitlements are one thing – when you can afford them I might add, but it is amazing how quickly people forget that those services are not a right and that they are part of a social contract. When this contract has to be re-worked to make it viable for all, people fight it with a crazy amount of passion to me.

  2. PK says:

    I don’t know enough about the strikes to comment in a helpful manner, but I can tell you that the US does have some very strange approaches to education. Advertised prices are all pretty high, but, just like with airline tickets, everyone ends up paying different prices – what with need based aid, scholarships, federal work study, living at home, community colleges, state schools, etc.

    Our problem is a problem of entrenchment in the current system and an excess of subsidized dollars sloshing around in the system. Student loan rates? Less than 30 year mortgages and artificially limited by Congress.

    I actually have no problem with subsidizing some post-secondary education, if that’s what the country decides. However, subsidizing every school and program leads to bloated schools and waste, and the way we’ve gone about it is pretty ridiculous.

    • Teacher Man says:

      Yup, I think we’ve thrown these type of comments back and forth before PK. The bottom line about school in the USA however, is that you are hard pressed to find many programs that cost less than $2500 a year, no matter how you break it down. For me, if you have that much subsidization we absolutely have to put some regulation in place, otherwise it is just people playing with government’s money and that never ends well.

  3. mycanuckbuck says:

    2500 bucks a year? That is so, so low. I’m not even sure it was that cheap for me when I went to school 15 years ago. Higher education is not a *right* in that it should be subsidized – especially considering how many students spend a good chunk of their time partying. And complaining about 325 a year increase? It’s ridiculous. I think they have far too high a sense of entitlement and need a real wake up call.

    • Teacher Man says:

      The crazy thing is that it isn’t even $325 for 5 years now, it’s stretched over 7 instead, and still no budging! So what is an appropriate punishment for these guys then? Should they even be allowed back into post-secondary facilities across Canada ever again?

  4. Poor Student says:

    A lot about the Quebec riots and strikes make me angry. I paid almost twice as much this year as the Quebec students will pay after all the prices have risen all the way.

    But even if their dispute is unfounded, they are bringing awareness to an important issue. While Quebec will not suffer greatly from the increases to the rock bottom rates they pay, many provinces do have a problem with rising tuition. Ontario averages over $6K, Canada as a whole averages $5,300 even with several provinces with very low figures. Education is something that is not prioritized highly by the federal or provincial governments despite recognizing the importance of it.

    • Teacher Man says:

      Interesting perspective Tyler. So what recommendation would you make if you were heading up a committee on the issue? Do we subsidize more? Because that has proven to not work in Quebec. Do we put more regulations in place? Do we go more American-style with higher costs, but more bursaries, grants and scholarships? For me, I actually think that certain parts of post-secondary education are prioritized way too highly and we have no economic need for what they produce. On the other hand, there should be way more emphasis on the STEM fields and trades, since that is where the money would benefit tax payers and society at large the most.

      • Poor Student says:

        I think you picked up on a reason why more of our taxes do not go to education funding. I am a student and I don’t know what a lot of them are there for. If I were paying taxes I would want them to go to the med students, the future teachers, people who will benefit us a lot. I know that this is going to come out wrong, but a lot of people can’t see the value in a film degree for example, or a music history major. These may be hard to justify, especially compared to people going through to be plumbers, mechanics, electricians.

        I honestly can not say I have great solution. I would attach the rises in costs to inflation and nothing more. If the price of everything goes up 2% so can tuition. But I would also make the cost as it is regulated across Canada at a lower value than the current average ($5300). If the price of tuition was $3K in every province and only went up with inflation I think that would be close to fair. Where the difference comes from I am not sure. Expenses could be cut a bit by the school offering more jobs to students, which would also pad their wallets.

        I think the American style is wrong. I would think that the ones going for most of those grants/bursaries/scholarships are the ones who need it least, those from high income families. I think the answer might unfortunately be more taxes. Or a realignment of government values (Can anybody say less fighter jets?).

        • Teacher Man says:

          I like the idea of attaching it to inflation. My plan for teachers wages was simply to eliminate all teachers unions and government negotiating teams and have one grand debate about the true value and pay scale of a teacher. Once we had it all figured out, just peg it to inflation and be done with it. I’m not a big proponent of the USA system either, but many of their bursaries etc. are specifically designed for lower income individuals, and many of them are purely merit based. I’d settle for competitively priced fighter jets!

  5. AverageJoe says:

    Wow, those are low rates (and coupled with a low graduation rate, something of a mystery, huh?). Still, I think overall Poor Student hit on an important vein. Tuition costs are becoming alarmingly high across North America. The only way schools are going to get more competitive is if someone begins seriously telling schools that they won’t take increases lying down.

    • Teacher Man says:

      But at the same time, how do we stop those increases without this sort of ridiculous abuse taking place? Like DQ says, when your dealing with so much government money sloshing around, it is too easy to keep raising rates.

  6. This is the first I’m hearing about this. Wow. It sounds like they already have it pretty good with the price of tuition. I couldn’t even go to community college for a year for that little.

  7. Great minds think alike? I recently wrote about this, too, and think the students are behaving like spoiled children and searching for a cause.

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