Unlike in London, U.K., where a planned protest fizzled earlier this week, Quebec students skipped classes en masse Thursday to demonstrate against tuition fee hikes. Some estimate tens of thousands rallied province-wide.* Tens of thousands marched in Montreal alone. The protests were peaceful.
The students are opposed to tuition fee hikes of $325 per year for five years, which will lead to tuition bills of $3,793 by 2017. Quebec students currently pay $2,415—less than half the average in Canada, which is $5,138. Still, they worry about the debt that higher tuition fees will bring.
But Premier Jean Charest is unlikely to back down. His decision in March to raise tuition is supported by university administrators, as they will get $850 million more collectively to operate schools each year after 2017, according to CTV News. The Conference of Rectors and Principals of Quebec Universities argues that quality is at risk without more money injected the system. Considering that Quebec’s gross provincial debt was $173-billion at budget time in March, the government is unable to provide more cash. As in most provinces, the majority of increases in revenue will be eaten up by growing health care costs.
*It was reported by many news agencies, including us, that 200,000 students protested. In fact, the Quebec Federation of University Students reports that the figure was closer to 20,000. We regret the error.