McGill says Quebec tuition hike threatens future of Schulich School of Music

McGill University says Quebec’s tuition increase for out-of-province students threatens the future of the renowned Schulich School of Music, where nearly 40 per cent of undergraduates come from other provinces and territories.

The $8,000 hike for non-Quebec Canadian students would have “profound and far-reaching consequences for McGill” if it goes forward as planned next fall, McGill principal Deep Saini warned in a statement Thursday.

The school is projecting a drop between 20 and 80 per cent in enrolment among those students as a result. Some faculties would “lose all their students from the rest of Canada, with no ability to replace them,” Saini wrote.

“The consequences will be especially devastating for the Schulich School of Music,” he said, predicting the new, $17,000 tuition rate would “likely be cost-prohibitive for new students and will place the School in jeopardy.”

McGill estimates the tuition increase, plus new government charges tied to international student enrolment, will deprive the university of between $42 million and $94 million every year. Job cuts numbering in the hundreds, cuts to varsity sports teams and suspensions of major infrastructure projects are among other possible consequences Saini outlined in his statement.

It follows similarly bleak prognoses from Quebec’s two other English-language universities, Bishop’s and Concordia. The three schools count a higher number of out-of-province students than their francophone counterparts. 

Quebec government officials have been open about their intent to curb the number of anglophone Canadian students in the province, a population that Premier François Legault has qualified as a threat to the French language. Though, Legault said this week he was willing to meet with the leaders of the three universities to hear suggestions for alternative measures to achieve that goal.

Saini said in his statement that “McGill remains committed to working with the Government of Quebec to find more effective ways to help it achieve its goals of promoting and protecting the French language.”

Elizabeth Wirth, chair of the Schulich School of Music faculty advisory board, urged calm among opponents of the measure as they formulate “reasonable” counter-arguments. She said Schulich’s donor community and existing scholarships and financial aid would continue to support students from outside Quebec, but she suggested significant changes to out-of-province student enrolment would nevertheless be a disservice to the school.

“In the time that I’ve been involved, the last 20 plus years, some of our great stars really that have developed have come from the rest of Canada,” Wirth said. “We want to maintain being the best music school in Canada. We have to have a very open door.

“We’ll work towards that whether we can do it with the government or not.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 3, 2023.

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