Most Montreal University Students Would Pay Less If Tuition Were Program-Based, Study Says

"Notably those in the social sciences."

MTL Blog, Associate Editor
People stand outside UQAM.​

People stand outside UQAM.

More than half of Montreal university students would pay less tuition if fees were divvied up by individual program. Undergraduates studying psychology would save over $1,000 per year, while those in administration, law and the humanities would save upward of $500 annually, according to a new study from the Montreal Economic Institute (MEI). But student groups warn such a change would lead to more inequality in the classroom.

"Psychology students should not have to pay a larger proportion of the costs of their education than those studying veterinary medicine," said Michel Poitevin, senior MEI fellow behind the study.

"By adjusting tuition fees as we propose, a whole bunch of students would pay less, notably those in the social sciences."

Right now, Quebec students all pay a standardized annual tuition fee — around $3K for the 2021-2022 academic year — regardless of program or level of study. But not all programs require the same resources.

The government subsidizes universities around $3,807 per psychology student and closer to $55,247 for each one studying veterinary medicine.

"Students in social sciences therefore indirectly end up heavily subsidizing students in other disciplines with high costs," writes Poitevin. That's unfair, he says, because in most cases, disciplines with elevated educational costs are also associated with high salaries after graduation.

But that's an "assumption," according to a 2018 report from the Union Étudiante du Québec (UEQ), which argues the correlation between certain programs and higher post-graduation pay "has not been fully proven."

While Poitevin proposes making tuition program-based so that the government pays the same percentage of costs across all students, the UEQ suggests modulating tuition fees is a "false solution" that would reduce access to education for disadvantaged students.

"A single tuition rate ensures that every program is equally accessible, even the most expensive. It supports the democratization of education, universal access, individuals’ choice of their own academic path, and social mobility," writes the UEQ.

Under a program-based fee structure, students in veterinary science programs would pay $22,582 more per year, while psych students would pay $1,169 less. That means a majority of students would pay substantially less, but those hoping to go into science-based fields and even the arts would end up paying a lot more ($7,953 more for medicine, optometry and population health; $7,346 more for fine arts).

Of course, even if tuition fees remain as is, a Quebec education will still cost less than an education in any other province in Canada.

Sofia Misenheimer
MTL Blog, Associate Editor
Sofia Misenheimer is an Associate Editor for MTL Blog focused on gas prices in Montreal and is based in Montreal, Quebec.
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