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 – 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.

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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?

11 years ago

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.… Read more »

11 years ago

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.

11 years ago

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… Read more »

11 years ago

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.

11 years ago
Reply to  Teacher Man

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… Read more »

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.

11 years ago

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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