Free University In Quebec Is Possible & Worth Making A Reality, A New Study Says

Several countries already have tuition-free uni.

Senior Editor
Quebec students protest tuition hikes in 2012.

Quebec students protest tuition hikes in 2012.

A new study is calling on Quebec to rethink the way it funds universities. The study by the Institut de recherche et d'informations socioéconomiques (IRIS) concludes that the tuition model no longer makes sense and that the province has the means to eliminate it.

"High fees and the prospect of going into debt discourage future students from pursuing their studies, especially the less well-off," study co-author Samuel Élie-Lesage said in a press release.

"At the same time, the need to pay off their debts may lead many of them to favour jobs where income is the highest, without regard to the true social utility of these jobs."

Researchers estimate that tuition-free university would have a price tag of $1.2 billion annually, or 0.009% of the current provincial budget.

"Not only is free education financially viable, but it is a very small price to pay to avoid the many failures of the neoliberal model," Élie-Lesage continued.

The study points to other social democracies where there's no tuition for university attendance, such as France and the Scandinavian countries in Europe, and Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay in South America.

"We must break with the widely held belief in public discourse that indexation is a 'reasonable compromise;' conversely, the abolition of tuition fees is not a utopia held by a few students, but the solution designated by many states," other study co-author Éric Martin implored.

The U.S. is the obvious example of a country where tuition and debt have run amock. According to Martin, tuition fees there "have increased by more than 25% in 10 years and by about 500% since 1985, while total student debt is now close to $1.7 trillion."

The release of the IRIS study coincides with the Biden administration's decision to cancel between $10,000 and $20,000 of student debt for some holders.

Martin insists the transition to free post-secondary education will take a paradigm shift.

"It's time to start questioning the growth-oriented logic to which our universities are subjected today. Universities are bottomless pits and do not need more and more resources to compete internationally. This concept, in addition to encouraging the growth of research activities that are harmful to the environment, serves in turn to legitimize the increase in tuition fees under the pretext of underfunding."

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