Post-secondary education in Quebec should be free: study

Researchers from a Quebec institute are proposing that the provincial government take advantage of its rising revenues to introduce free post-secondary education.

In its study published Wednesday, the Institut de recherche et d’informations socioéconomiques (IRIS) claims that tuition fees no longer have a place as a method of financing universities.

The study’s authors calculate that free tuition in Quebec would cost $1.2 billion, representing less than 0.009 per cent of total spending in the provincial budget.

Samuel Élie-Lesage, a research associate at IRIS and co-author of the study, says that not only is free education financially viable, but high fees and the prospect of going into debt discouraged students from pursuing education, especially the less affluent.

In addition, the need for students to repay their debts may lead many to choose jobs with the highest incomes, regardless of their social utility.

IRIS reports that free or low-fee education is already the norm in several countries, including France, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

Eric Martin, a co-author of the study, recalls that Germany adopted tuition abolition in 2013 to address the financial insecurity of students.

Meanwhile, he notes that in the United States, tuition fees have increased by about 500 per cent since 1985, and student debt has exploded.

Martin says he believes that universities do not need more resources to compete internationally.

In his opinion, this is a concept that legitimizes tuition fees increases under the pretext of underfunding.

— This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Aug. 24, 2022.