Allocation of international fees must be considered in context
On Oct. 19, McGill Principal and Vice-Chancellor Heather Munroe-Blum spoke at an event hosted by the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations, and called for Quebec to increase international student enrollment. In her speech, which also highlighted the advantages international students bring to Quebec, Munroe-Blum brought attention to the the way the province handles the allocation of international tuition fees.
As it currently stands, most of the tuition paid by international students at McGill does not stay at the university. Instead, McGill only receives the portion of fees corresponding to in-province tuition. The rest—often upwards of $10,000—is retained by the province and redistributed across all Quebec universities.
Some critics of this system assert that universities should keep most, or all, of the international fees. They cite a number of advantages to reform. For one, international students would benefit more directly from the steep rates they shell out per semester, since their fees would go directly to their own university. Furthermore, because recruiting and retaining international students is expensive, many—like Munroe-Blum on Oct. 19—argue that universities like McGill, with a large proportion of international students, should profit more from their investment in attracting international students.
To come to a thoughtful conclusion on this subject, one must consider the purpose and role of Quebec’s higher education system. Above all, the system’s goal is to educate the entire province. The current model reflects this: just as in-province tuition fees and provincial taxes are distributed evenly among the province’s educational institutions, all Quebec universities currently benefit in equal measure from international student investment.
Addressing the situation is not as simple as just asking for international student fees to be returned to individual universities. One must place the issue within the greater Quebec context. Quebec’s values are defined by a sort of social communitarianism, and education is hardly an exception. These past months of student activism have clearly demonstrated the value Quebeckers place on post-secondary education that all citizens have access to. An egalitarian distribution of international funding across all universities reflects this philosophy.
When international students choose to come to Quebec, they become, in some measure, guests of the local system. Quebec society prides itself on an accessible education system that does not favour some institutions over others. We must take this into consideration as debate continues on this issue.