By Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press on December 19, 2023.
MONTREAL – McGill University will offer a $3,000 annual award to new undergraduate students from other provinces to offset a tuition hike imposed by the provincial government, the institution announced Tuesday.
Roughly 80 per cent of Canadian undergraduate students who apply to the university would be eligible for the award, beginning in the 2024-2025 school year.
The Canada Award will be guaranteed for up to four years of study as the university tries to maintain enrolment in the face of the province’s plan to increase tuition for out-of-province students to $12,000 per year from $8,992.
“Roughly 1,200 students would be eligible for this award, but again we don’t know because we’re facing an uphill battle where the messaging from the government has potentially turned away some students,” Fabrice Labeau, deputy provost, said in an interview.
“So what we’re trying to do with this award is actually do the opposite and bring students back, make them consider McGill as their place of choice, because we’re ready to host them, and we’re trying to help them overcome new barriers that have been put in place by the government.”
The award will be for Canadian students studying in arts, agricultural and environmental sciences, music, education, architecture, nursing and most science programs – departments Labeau said would be likely to see a drop in enrolment if tuition were set at $12,000. Students in engineering, administration, dentistry, medicine and law will not be eligible for the award.
McGill University president Deep Saini said in a statement that the school’s success is built on its ability to attract talent from Quebec, Canada and around the world, and he says the award will allow the institution to remain one of the top in the world.
Saini said funding the award will require the university to make some financial sacrifices but added that out-of-province students are “part of our DNA.”
“We believe that the diversity of McGill’s student population makes for a richer learning experience that benefits all our students,” he said.
Quebec has framed the tuition hike for out-of-province students attending McGill and Concordia University as a way to protect the French language in the province’s largest city. Initially, the government said it would nearly double tuition to $17,000 from $8,992, but last week it softened the blow by setting fees at $12,000 beginning next fall.
There will also be a new language requirement beginning in the 2025-2026 academic year, requiring English-language universities to ensure 80 per cent of their graduates from out of province have an intermediate level of French by the time they graduate.
Both Concordia and McGill have said they’ve seen significant drops in applications since Quebec first announced the tuition hike in October. They have warned the hike could lead to a steep drop in enrolment and devastate their finances.
Quebec Higher Education Minister Pascale Déry responded to McGill’s announcement with a short statement.
“McGill is free to grant scholarships to its students from its own funds,” her office said. “That said, the minister hopes to be able to count on their collaboration in order to implement the announced measures.”
McGill has said a tuition increase to $12,000 would result in between $42 million and $94 million in lost revenue. Labeau said the university has made some cuts since the hike was announced.
“We’re going to be doing targeted budget cuts and at the end of the day, it’s going to be an internal reallocation,” Labeau said of funding the award.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 19, 2023.