University students prepare to march against Quebec tuition hikes

"As anglophone universities were an easy scapegoat, but enough is enough," says international Concordia University student, David Danos, as the Quebec government hikes tuition for out-of-province students. Anastasia Dextrene reports.

Thousands of students from McGill University and Concordia University are hitting the picket lines to denounce the Quebec government’s plan to increase tuition for out-of-province and international students at English universities. Faculty associations have voted for a strike to take place, which will represent over 21,000 students.

“I think this is our best chance to tell the government that we’re not okay with what they’re doing,” said Concordia University student executive, Melissa Osorio.

“I think it’s important to remember that this issue is not about languages, but also that it’s about free, accessible education,” she added.

Melissa Osorio at Concordia University on March 11, 2024. (CREDIT: Anastasia Dextrene, CityNews Image)

In response to a planned rise from $9,000 to $12,000, a student-led demonstration is set to occur on March 13 as the strike continues through March 15. 

“Tuition is already way too high. It’s been way too high for years. The pandemic slowed down this fight, but we’re back at it, and it’s time,” said David Danos, an international student at Concordia University from the United States.

Danos, who grew up in California but comes from a French family, says he elected to pursue studies at the university for the sole purpose of it being an environment that would provide access to English and French.

“I didn’t have access to French around because of where I was located. […] I did spend a year in Brussels in undergrad – doing all my undergrad university in French – and I failed that year. So I have a lot of pain around going back to undergrad in a French institution, so that’s why I chose Concordia,” he told CityNews.

Most striking students are in the faculty of arts and science, as well as the fine arts faculty and the faculty of engineering and computer science. Many will opt out of class between March 11 and 15.

David Danos at Concordia University on March 11, 2024. (CREDIT: Anastasia Dextrene, CityNews Image)

Barring cost and language issues, students say resulting budget cuts at universities are having a disruptive impact on current class schedules as well.

“We’re facing budget cuts, so a lot of classes are being canceled. That means everyone has to reschedule their entire agenda and make sure they get their classes to graduate,” Osorio said.

The Quebec government has defended the tuition hikes, saying that they were imposed, in part, because there are too many people who speak English in Montreal.

Both Concordia and McGill have said they’ve recorded significant drops in applications since Quebec announced the tuition hike in October and have warned it could trigger a steep drop in enrolment and devastate their finances.

“We are really working hard to build bridges with other institutions, with other linguistic and cultural communities to put pressure on the government to say enough is enough,” said Danos. 

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