I saw a person I follow on Twitter, Jeromie, post – or re-post from Facebook, in agreement(?) – something called, “The Real Cost of Tuition in Quebec (SPOILER ALERT).”
The title tipped me off to what the general message of the piece would be (SPOILER ALERT: the Quebec studentry is spoiled and should just shut up and this is why!), and when I clicked through, my irritated suspicions were confirmed.
I didn’t want to say anything about it. For quite some time, I tried to ignore it, but it kept coming back and getting under my nailbed. Finally, when someone posted a comment that bought the post hook, line, and sinker, I realized I had to speak up, to at least explain my understanding of why the math was wrong. Others have addressed similar points, and probably more eloquently, yet still I felt I should try and get across why a simple tally like that cannot and should not be used as an argument against the students of Quebec, offering my perspective as an outsider from this province who worked throughout undergrad, yet who is about to face monthly loan repayment bills that are higher than my rent. I’m certain the Quebec students are aware they have it good, and want it to remain that way.
Sometimes I feel, with feelings informed by frequent readings of comments sections on national media posts concerning this, that youth is being villainized, portrayed as having a sense of entitlement. Yet I imagine that if any other group were targeted for a 75% fee increase on necessary services like this, even if it left them better off than comparative groups in other provinces, there would be less smirking and condescension.
In any case.
Note that the following remarks are only really applicable to the atmosphere pre-Loi 78, at which point the protests became as much (or even more) about defending everyone’s civil rights as they ever were about ‘simply’ tuition. Note too that the student response is a position which numerous pundits and even the Bar Association of Quebec have supported.
My comment ended up getting rather long, so I thought I’d be better off posting it here as a general reflection. I recommend you read the post I’m responding to, first.
I can’t speak to the tax breaks specifically, because I’m a B.C. student studying in Quebec who hopes that the students here won’t be burdened with the same $40k debt while emerging into a dead job market after acquiring a university degree that’s now considered a necessary prerequisite to be competitive in that same job market. But I must ask…
Where is the figure of $10,880 in a summer acquired?
Summer weekends = Saturday/Sunday shifts of 8 hours a day over 3 months = 192 hours over the summer = $56.66/hr to make $10,880. That is NOT the average undergraduate wage.
So, let’s assume the student is working throughout the weekdays in the summer; in order to make $10,880 for a summer (typically 3 months, June-Aug, by the time they secure a job in this market), they need to earn $3,626 per month. I have a MA and I’ve never earned that much in one month in my life, certainly not throughout undergrad. At $10/hr (net),* that’s 362 hours a month, or 51 hours a week if they work all 7 days of the week.
*Note that minimum wage in Quebec is $9.65 an hour, actually.
I really don’t see how this represents the average.
If they’re living at home, they’re probably commuting into the downtown core, which means they’re paying out of their wages for a metro pass as well as for food while on the job — and probably coffee too, as 51 hours a week will be very tiring. These costs add up, and take away from any savings pool they may have.
If they’re not living at home, well, they have rent, groceries, and bill, plus those work-associated costs to consider. Never mind a little thing called having fun once in a while, plus cosmetics and clothes to be presentable at work.
Note too that a BA doesn’t cost what is quoted here; McGill’s own site lists the fee as $3,731.42 for 30 credit hours during Fall/Winter 2011-2012, during which it’s unlikely the student will be able to acquire or sustain gainful employment without watching their grades suffer — this is an important consideration for those bound for law school, med school, technical school, or grad school in their field. So now, that hypothetical summer-earned $11k has to suffice the student as savings for the entire year of living costs; it’s not just as a once-earned tuition-payout. If the student can’t hold a job for whatever reason, or is unable to secure a job, they’re living $7k below the poverty line and have to take out student loans at 3.50% interest.
The costs of other degrees, which are historically considered employable, like the sciences, can cost more and are still producing unemployed graduates while the government cuts the jobs and while Charest’s generation demographics occupy the seats remaining, so this isn’t just an “art student thing.”
Budgeting on paper is hardly the same as living through an individual financial reality, which hasn’t been accounted for in the article. Also note that these figures are for 2011, and not for the new tuition proposed under Charest’s 75% increase. If it still seems sweet, it’s probably because it is, and Quebec students would like their tuition to remain within reach rather than being a debt sentence like the rest of Canadians. Note that national student debt is a bubble that’s threatening to pop, which serves no citizen’s interest in the long run. It’s about national fiscal health as much as individual problems.
In the end, this “evidence” which attempts to paint the student movement as the unjust, unwarranted complaining of a group of financially comfortable students misses the reality and the point entirely. It’s not merely about the bottom line, but the principle of raising tuition on the wallets of students to account for inflation when: 1. There are other sources of this income 2. Charest’s plan proposed that one incoming class of students, who would not be able to plan for the 75% increase in time to budget 3. The quality of education has NOT increased in many departments, but has gone down and left students with fewer bursaries, and fewer skills while entering a challenging job market.
This is a complicated issue that can’t be addressed using just math on paper, and speaks more to the bad attitude of whoever concocted this budget than the reality of the situation.
I wish students in B.C. had stood up when they were repeatedly made to foot the bill.