Ten years ago, Quebec experienced a key moment in the 2012 student protests. It was on March 22 in the spring that 200,000 people took to the streets to show their support for the “red squares” movement. This is a mobilization of historical proportions. As a result of this mobilization, the liberal increase was replaced by the indexation of the PQ. Since then, some like to say that this great social movement would have been nothing but a failure. That the loan and scholarship program or the tax rebates on offer would have made up for the initial increase anyway, and that in the end it was all rumored for nothing. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The student mobilization first wanted to defend access to education. Reducing tuition fees, or even eliminating them through free education, make it easier for everyone to access the school. Despite financial support, the signal sent by an increase has a deterrent effect on entry as it discourages many young people from considering a university course. The long-term accounting mindset that a graduate will “return his money” ignores a simple reality: 1) not everyone has the money to make this initial “investment” and 2) the fears of anticipating debt are serious. . deterrent effects.
For a student who completes high school in the spring, canceling the increase is equivalent to a $ 4,257 ($ 2,459) savings for those who would have been entitled to a maximum refund of the tax deduction for tuition fees. tuition that has been reduced). A total of 390,000 graduates were able to complete their undergraduate studies at a lower cost thanks to the student strike. From the point of view of defending access to education, the results of 2012 are positive, it is undeniable.
Contrast the commodification of education
Initially, the request to increase tuition fees came from the universities themselves. Of its rectors, to be more precise. The argument was this: in a globalized education market, in a competitive “knowledge economy,” and in the American context of market and ruthless competition between colleges, Quebec universities are fighting against unequal weapons. Its “solution”: increase the student bill, all to settle an alleged “underfunding” that has never been rigorously demonstrated.
The arguments of the rectors showed their total resignation to the defense of the establishments for which they were responsible. In his mind, he needed to raise more financial resources to compete internationally. Who or not will have access to universities once fees are raised? How would this business logic affect the knowledge that we were going to develop and that we were going to transmit? All of these questions were left out. However, they are crucial.
Because the student strike also opposed this: a purely commercial view of education. The idea that universities are factories designed to produce graduates and patents. As a society, this business mindset jeopardizes one of the few spaces where the development of critical thinking is still possible. The 2012 movement was also right to denounce this vision and work to curb its implementation.
Ten years later, we are commemorating a major milestone in Maple Spring. The Quebec government should take advantage of the presentation of the pre-election budget to get Quebec back on the path to non-market education. A good way to reconnect with the spirit of 2012 and the ideals of the Quiet Revolution would be to use this budget to announce the implementation of a free enrollment policy at Quebec universities. That’s the decent thing to do, and it should end there.
No one should have to pay or borrow to study. Education is, above all, an act of learning that allows everyone to be part of a common world and to participate in it as a citizen. It is not a commodity, much less an individual investment.