Many Quebec students will be hurt as the tuition standoff drags on
By Brian Platt
s the crisis in Quebec continues, with student associations and the provincial government battling (sometimes literally) over a proposed tuition increase, it is reaching a critical stage where the lives of thousands of young Quebecers will be permanently affected.
If the winter term is cancelled, many students who were planning to graduate will lose access
to bursaries, internships and other programs that are crucial steps toward building one’s career. I’m particularly sensitive to this issue, as it’s the stage of life I’m currently going through.
In itself, this consequence doesn’t mean that the student associations aren’t justified in continuing to protest the government’s plans. It’s hard not to admire the spirit and stamina that goes into maintaining multiple rallies every day for three months. They have successfully exercised power over the government’s decision-making, and you can’t say that about the under-25 crowd in Canada very often.
But when it gets to the point of harming the life plans of students, a certain amount of side-taking needs to happen. Both foes are entrenched enough that it is doubtful this is going to come to a reasonably negotiated solution — and indeed, the student associations are in the process of rejecting what many already viewed as a government capitulation.
I myself am convinced by the argument (made by most economists) that across-the-board tuition cuts amount to the poor subsidizing the wealthy
. The student activist argument can be roughly summed up here
, and you can decide whether it’s persuasive. I don’t think it is.
And to a certain extent, I just don’t think that an annual tuition rate of $3,800 is enough of an outrage to shut down a province for months on end. I’d rather see this energy put toward guaranteeing more education grants for low-income families, and a more forgiving system of student loan payments.
We can argue about this, of course, and it’s an interesting argument to have. It’s also an argument that is really starting to hurt people.
This is about values, and it’s about social justice, and these things get complicated when intelligent people disagree about them. But I think what’s now key is ending this dispute for the cause of letting everyone else in Quebec get on with their lives.