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McGill could lose $90 million from PQ decision to scrap tuition increases.
September 10, 2012 11:00 AM   Subscribe

McGill could lose $90 million from PQ decision to scrap tuition increases. The administration is not amused.
posted by Strass (65 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
:'(
posted by Catchfire at 11:11 AM on September 10, 2012


If only the schools were "too big to fail".
posted by dubold at 11:14 AM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


This was always the problem with the PQ, and the reason their government probably won't last. They're advocating for good things people like, but they have no plan to back it up. I mean, not even "okay, we'll spend more and run a deficit" back it up. People were pointing out the problem with Marois' pledges during the election.
posted by mightygodking at 11:15 AM on September 10, 2012


Expect faculty and staff strikes very soon.
posted by bonehead at 11:17 AM on September 10, 2012


Why only McGill? Shouldn't it be the same for UDM/Concordia/UQAM?
posted by cacofonie at 11:25 AM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


It'll be the same at all universities and CEGEPs, but the students will count this a win. They may have to fire teachers and other workers, but at least the students won't have to pay a bit extra on their already ridiculously low tuition to get it.
posted by Hazelsmrf at 11:29 AM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


They'll just have to carry on milking out-of-province and international applicants, just like they should.
posted by furtive at 11:30 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's interesting how you're right, Hazelsmrf, they WILL see this as a win without understanding what other programs that affect other Quebecers will be cut to make this happen.

Hindsight is 20/20, I guess.
posted by Kitteh at 11:32 AM on September 10, 2012


By comparison, in 2008 the University of Toronto reported a $1.3 BILLION loss on investments. McGill lost about $185M that same year. It often seems like universities are playing the ponies and expecting students to make up their losses.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 11:32 AM on September 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


They'll just have to carry on milking out-of-province and international applicants, just like they should.

The problem with that strategy (which does work to some extent) is that if you enroll enough out-of-province and International students to materially affect the budget, you're deliberately choosing not to admit local students in favor of those other students. It seems somewhat, um, counterproductive to have a system of higher education that is specifically designed not to serve the local population.

One of the biggest risks of this strategy is the long term political cost: what happens when the electorate wakes up one day and says "hey, none of our kids get to enroll in any of the local universities!" Well, they sure as hell don't want to vote for any party talking about increasing investment in higher education, that's for sure. So the downward spiral towards privatization continues.
posted by yoink at 11:34 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


@furtive they can milk it while the PQ makes any internationals uncomfortable unless they are from Belgium France or Haiti.
posted by Napierzaza at 11:36 AM on September 10, 2012


It often seems like universities are playing the ponies

What, exactly, do you propose that universities do with their endowments? Put them all in savings accounts?

2008 was a cataclysm that affected pretty much every large scale investor; to hold it up as proof that the universities are awash in cash and playing the market like a casino is simply to declare you have no serious interest in or understanding of the subject.
posted by yoink at 11:38 AM on September 10, 2012 [16 favorites]


I don't think Haiti is on Pauline's vetted list of approved french countries.
posted by Hazelsmrf at 11:38 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


So if I'm reading this correctly, the educators haven't been able to balance their budget for years, and their best strategy so far has been to increase tuition.

So, are they unable to balance their budget in any other way? Or has this sort of class warfare been reduced to quite literally students v educators?
posted by Blue_Villain at 11:40 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Here is a list of the 10 highest paid university administrators in Quebec based on documents filed with the National Assembly last fall:

1. Heather Munroe-Blum, McGill principal – $585,481 (base pay of $356,174 plus $229,307 in perks and other compensation.**)

2. Richard Levin, McGill vice principal, health and medical affairs and dean of medicine – $548,929 (base pay of $496,921 plus $52,008 in perks and other compensation.)

3. Judith Woodsworth, Concordia president (Woodsworth was forced to resign last December) – $392,875 (base pay of $350,000 plus $42,875 in perks and other compensation.)

4. Luc Vinet, U de M rector (Vinet’s term ended June 1, 2010) – $362,230 (base pay of $339,031 plus $23,199 in perks and other compensation.)


5. Kathy Assayag, Concordia vice-president, advancement and alumni relations; president of the Concordia University foundation (Assayag left the university for “personal reasons” in September 2010) – $334,323 (base pay of $283,785 plus $50,538 in perks and other compensation.)

6. Michael Di Grappa, Concordia vice-president, services (DiGrappa left Concordia to take a position at McGill in late October, 2010) – $330,042 (base pay of $240,179 plus $89,863 in perks and other compensation.)

7. Rima Rozen, McGill assistant vice-principal, research and international relations – $317,553 (base pay of $226,933 plus $90,620 in perks and other compensation.)

8. Jean-Lucien Rouleau, U de M dean, medicine – $316,174 (base pay of $311,489 plus $4,023 in perks and other compensation.)

9. Peter Allan Todd, McGill dean, management – $310,137 (base pay of $308,129 plus $2,008 in perks and other compensation.)

10. Marc Weinstein, McGill vice-principal, development and alumni relations – $306,185 (base pay of $264,762 plus $41,423 in perks and other compensation.)
"
From here, dated May 2011
posted by rocket88 at 11:42 AM on September 10, 2012 [12 favorites]


Expect faculty and staff strikes very soon.

Actually, MUNACA, McGill's non-academic employee union, went on strike last year. The administration called the riot police on them. Somehow, I don't expect them to side in solidarity with the employer.
posted by Catchfire at 11:42 AM on September 10, 2012


McGill's annual budget is ~$1B, and this year's deficit grew by $6M when the tuition was repealed, with a loss of $30M/year by 2018. The province kicks in $430M, the federal government $160M, and tuition $176M (page 41, at a glance).

I dunno, seems like the provincial government could just make up the difference. Most of the loss is likely from reduced funding over the next few years (the reduction was probably intended to be fixed by increasing tuition).
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 11:44 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heather Munroe-Blum, McGill's principal, gets $585,481 in salary and perks... perhaps cuts should start there?! Also, they should consider doing what everyone else is doing now... charge foreign students substantially more.

Also, McGill’s average salary for full professors is $112,084... with some earning considerably more, especially if they are business or law professors.

Also, isn't a ratio of 1558 faculty to about 30K students a bit high?!
posted by markkraft at 11:45 AM on September 10, 2012


the students will count this a win. They may have to fire teachers and other workers, but at least the students won't have to pay a bit extra on their already ridiculously low tuition to get it.

This is exactly the problem and why advocating for lower tuition isn't (necessarily) the right tack; at the very least, it shouldn't be the only lobbying point you've got. I mean, sure, it is best for students to not have huge financial barriers to entry, but in order for costs to be kept low for the individual student without sacrificing the quality of the education they receive, the government needs to step up and provide more funding to post-secondary education. If the PQ isn't going to do this, then scraping tuition increases isn't really helping anyone. Sure, more students will be able to afford a university education, but the quality of that education won't be as good as it coulda/shoulda/woulda been.
posted by asnider at 11:46 AM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everyone agrees that:

i) Education is a right
ii) Having a world class, research institution like McGill, helps the city, the province and the country and attracts talent from all over the world.

The question is who should foot the bill and, in my mind, forgive me if I'm over-simplifying, its not a very complicated question... either its the students or the government, or some combination of both.

What's seems to be happening here is the burden is being hoisted onto the institution themselves, which doesn't seem fair. As someone who, for lack of seating room has sat in the fire-escape of Leacock 132 to attend a class, will undoubtedly result in the corrosion of point number ii).
posted by cacofonie at 11:47 AM on September 10, 2012


The other source, I suppose, is the private sector, but lets not even go there.
posted by cacofonie at 11:49 AM on September 10, 2012


Quebec tuition is ridiculously low. McGill is probably our very best university in Canada, and a local student here will pay about 4k for a year doing his undergrad studies. Compare that to a top tier school in the US. Tuition has been frozen for years and hasn't even kept up with inflation. This tuition increase was needed, but now that they're not increasing it I guess it's just everyone else that will have to cover the shortfall.

If the tuition was huge, I could understand students saying that the tuition was too much of a cost and they couldn't afford it. But right now it's 4k. For a year. Even if they raise that to 7k, what weekend job flipping burgers wouldn't cover 7k? The tuition needs to be low enough so that everyone can afford it, but high enough to actually help the school provide the services it needs to provide and discourage you from just staying in school indefinitely.
posted by Hazelsmrf at 11:50 AM on September 10, 2012


McGill is probably our very best university in Canada, and a local student here will pay about 4k for a year doing his undergrad studies. Compare that to a top tier school in the US.

Or, far more importantly, do not compare that to a top tier school in the US, where massively inflated tuitions are now the norm.
posted by eriko at 11:53 AM on September 10, 2012 [18 favorites]


Hazelsmrf, that's not what's happening.

Tuition isn't increasing to help the school provide services. It's increasing because the federal/provincial government is reducing how much they offer the school.

The government is forcing the students to pay more, so that they can pay less.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 11:54 AM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Why only McGill? Shouldn't it be the same for UDM/Concordia/UQAM?

This Chronicle article cites a figure of CA$332 million as the total expected shortfall among all Quebec colleges and universities over the next 7 years if the tuition freeze goes into effect.

Also, they should consider doing what everyone else is doing now... charge foreign students substantially more.

They already do - a BA costs $4000 for a QC resident, $7700 for a non-QC Canadian, and $17200 for an international student. But raising fees is also complicated. Last year, McGill was fined by the province for raising their MBA tuition fees.
posted by googly at 11:54 AM on September 10, 2012


So, are they unable to balance their budget in any other way?

Such as? Bake sales? Corporate endorsement of every class ("this hour of biology is brought to you by McDonalds")?

Seriously, either we pay through taxes or we pay via tuition. There really isn't any other way. Those who go on about administrator salaries are focusing on a purely symbolic issue. If the administrators all worked for free it wouldn't materially change the budget equation. And, in fact, it's sillier than that: a good Chancellor is employed largely to raise funds for the institution in the form of charitable donations. If you employ some faceless bureaucrat for $50,000 p/a your drop-off in donations will far, far exceed the amount paid to the relatively high-profile people that universities competitively seek for these jobs. You need to get someone who can get the attention of CEOs and local bigwigs; you don't get that kind of person for much less than 500K p/a.

As for cutting academic salaries: yeah, great. See how that international and out-of-province tuition money rolls in when people realize they're enrolling at a university which can only afford to hire "professors" who are incapable of finding a job at any other reputable university in the world. That's a great way to turn an excellent university into something closer to a second rate community college.
posted by yoink at 11:56 AM on September 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


what weekend job flipping burgers wouldn't cover 7k?

Um, any of them? Like, assuming you have living expenses above and beyond tuition? If you think university students (who are not, incidentally, facing stellar job prospects post-graduation) should be going into debt to finance their educations, so be it. You should just say so. Because "flipping burgers," even full-time, year round is not going to cover cost of living + $7k for very many people.
posted by wreckingball at 12:03 PM on September 10, 2012 [8 favorites]


Wreckingball, I know/knew many students that paid for their tuition and apartment just fine with a weekend/summer job. I did it myself. The cost of living in general in Montreal is cheap, find a roomate and you're talking 400$ in rent a month. Plus food, plus a subway pass (don't need a car/car insurance payment here), it's very doable.
posted by Hazelsmrf at 12:07 PM on September 10, 2012


(And if going into debt makes sense to get the education, then it's probably a smart investment depending on the field you choose. If you're choosing a field that has a strong job market, then I would not hesitate to finance it through loans if I had no other option.)
posted by Hazelsmrf at 12:11 PM on September 10, 2012


To put it bluntly, I think, is that if you are poor in Quebec, then you are fortunate, because you have some of the lowest barriers to higher education on this side of the Atlantic. And all of the blood, sweat and tears of the last 50 years of education battle in the province have been and fought and won on your behalf.

If you are wealthy, or even middle class, you are getting a great deal. A bargain even. Because even though you and your family could tolerate up to a 100% increase in tuition without landing excessive debt, you still get the bargain basement prices and what (for now) is still a world-class education. It sounds too good to be true because it IS too good to be true.

I think the idea of income-contigent loans (Slate) is one that is not nearly discussed enough.

And I understand the fear about debt and tuition skewing career choices and fields of study. I wholeheartedly agree that higher education should be about you spending four years to learn about yourself and whatever the hell field interests you. But for medical school and professional schools, this becomes ridiculous.

McGill medical school costs 5000$ a year. Contrast that to, on average, 20 000$ down the 401 or 50 000$ down south. It will cost you 20 000$ to have access to a career that almost guarantees a mean income of 171 000$ per year (even in Quebec). It just doesn't make any sense.


I think its a fallacy, and its not worth eroding the tremendous and priceless intellectual tradition and international reputation of a university which once hosted William Osler and Ernest Rutherford.
posted by cacofonie at 12:11 PM on September 10, 2012


Alright, last time. Sources here; sorry if the table's a little wonky (mostly projected values, because I'm strapped for time).
Revenue		2007        2008        2009     2011	     2012
Federal		19,745     25,315     24,331    24,414      24,338
Provincial	276,780    299,837   315,195    296,948    330,827
Tuition		140,731    169,815   186,966    202,317    215,687
I'm no accountant, but overall, the message is clear.

The province is short-changing the universities, and expecting tuition to make up the difference.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 12:15 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Given that a majority of the legislature supports a tuition hike of some sort, the only way the PQ can ensure a tuition freeze is to keep a hike off the order paper. Good luck with that.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 12:15 PM on September 10, 2012


It often seems like universities are playing the ponies and expecting students to make up their losses.

Not every university has a Larry Summers.

Here's an example of how this works.

Having amassed a fortune through dubious means, J. Robber Baron decides to leave a better name for himself to posterity. As part of his goodwill-buying spree, he endows a professorship to the local university. This may amount to a one-time transfer of cash. The university can't use all of that this year, and even if they did, they'd have no way to ensure that Professor Snape will continue to be funded in the years to come. They could set the cash aside, paying out little bits of salary until it's gone, but there are two obvious problems with doing this. So instead, they invest the money. They leave the principal "untouched" and effectively use the return on the investment as the actual source of funds for the professorship.

The sum total of such gifts to the university is called its endowment. Harvard's is famously worth over 30 billion dollars US.
posted by Slothrup at 12:19 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


@furtive they can milk it while the PQ makes any internationals uncomfortable unless they are from Belgium France or Haiti.

McGill International Students - Top 20 Fall 2011
  1. USA 2,271
  2. France 999
  3. China 564
  4. India 357
  5. Saudi Arabia 287
  6. Iran 264
  7. Pakistan 261
  8. South Korea 232
  9. United Kingdom 145
  10. Mexico 131 But tapping in to your logic anecdotally, I know a lot of French Swiss that went to UQAM/UdeM and then jumped back home once they graduated.
posted by furtive at 12:27 PM on September 10, 2012


This article rather disingenuously leaves out some very important details from what the Liberals had in mind when they started reconsidering how universities are to be funded - tuition increases weren't the only thing that changed.... it's not as simple as "tuitions go up which means more funding for universities". The government intended a much more complicated offloading of university funding, not just onto students but onto universities, in the hopes of forcing universities to seek more funding from the private sector.

"The Quebec government intends to earmark $850 million for universities by 2016–2017, or $320 million to cover rising system costs and $530 million in additional resources. These sums will come from tuition fee increases ($265 million), government reinvestment ($430 million), increased donations by businesses and individuals ($54 million), and heightened commoditization of research and other ancillary university activities ($101 million).
However, only 50 % to 60 % of these new sums will be used to improve teaching conditions and student services. Between 15 % and 25 % of the money will go toward research, with priority given to the private sector. From 10 % to 20 % will be dedicated to the “competitive positioning of universities in Canada and abroad,” (i.e., advertising campaigns and recruitment of high profile/highly paid professors. Lastly, 5 % to 15 % of the cash will be used for “governance” expenses including salaries of administrators, managers, or “members of the board of directors who sit on committees of strategic importance in the management of the university.”
Tuition fee hikes are in line with a more general trend toward privatizing educational institutions. Rather than shaping minds and imparting intellectual, cultural, or scientific heritage, universities are now being asked to help fuel economic development and growth. Quebec also wants to boost university donations from businesses and individuals by 50 % to open up the public education system to private interests. To that effect, it created the “Placements Universités” plan, which sets fundraising objectives and awards additional grants to universities that manage to find the most private funding."

Read the full Iris Research pdf document
posted by metameat at 12:29 PM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Judging an educational institution's benefit to society based on whether or not it makes a profit is, let me put this politely, fucking stupid.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:31 PM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


The question is who should foot the bill and, in my mind, forgive me if I'm over-simplifying, its not a very complicated question... either its the students or the government, or some combination of both.

And if the government pays it is really just the students paying.

In Canada, university graduates (25% of the population) paid about 44% of the income tax (source Canadian Association for Graduate Studies 2013 budget briefing [PDF]).

This is as it should be. Those who benefit from uni education should (and do) contribute more through taxes.

To me, this is a great argument for decreasing tuition and making sure no qualified student is ever turned away. And an increase of taxes (or stopping the decreases) on higher income earners should do the trick nicely.

As the good doctors (and now lawyers) say, Tax me, Canada is worth it.
posted by chapps at 12:37 PM on September 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


Canada could have used the steadily increasing income from it's vast oil wealth the way Norway has used it's North Sea windfall.

Harper was chosen and raised to power specifically to prevent that.

It worked-- and you can expect much worse things than this.
posted by jamjam at 12:40 PM on September 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


To that effect, it created the “Placements Universités” plan, which sets fundraising objectives and awards additional grants to universities that manage to find the most private funding.

Ugh. Now that, to be sure, is in fact a way to increase revenue for the universities. But it's a complete distortion of what a university ought to be. More and more, universities become the R&D adjunct to private industry, with increasing pressure to keep IP control in private hands. You can fund a university-like institution this way (and you can even probably skim a little off the top to keep the humanities and social sciences afloat to an extent), but it is a complete perversion of what a university--particularly a public university--should be. And it means farewell to pure research; the only projects getting funding will be ones that can promise some relatively short-term industrial application.
posted by yoink at 12:40 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


McGill International Students - Top 20 Fall 2011
USA 2,271
France 999


Not to nit-pick but those 999 French students all pay the cheap Quebec tuition. Less than a student from 150 km away in Ottawa.
posted by cacofonie at 12:46 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Quebec tuition is ridiculously low. McGill is probably our very best university in Canada, and a local student here will pay about 4k for a year doing his undergrad studies.

McGill hasn't been the best university in Canada since the early 20th century. It's still riding its Rutherford fame and the fact that its name sounds more like an American private university than most Canadian universities. It sometimes ranks top of the Maclean's ratings, but those are for undergraduate admissions and don't reflect the research calibre of a university. Last time I saw an international ranking based on research, Toronto was the highest rated Canadian university - while this recent Canadian ranking would put UBC top (probably because medical research was excluded, which hit Toronto badly).

disclaimer: I work for a UofT based research unit, but I do hate UofToronto, as any good York U grad would. Besides, everyone knows that university rankings should be judged by how good the early modern and/or environmental history is, and by that measure York is clearly the best university in Canada.
posted by jb at 12:54 PM on September 10, 2012


Also, local tuition at Ontario universities is about $5-6k/year, so McGill is not much cheaper.

that said, while $4-6k isn't THAT expensive, we should all oppose tuition hikes because we don't want to turn into the US, where even many state universities are unaffordable.
posted by jb at 12:56 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


What, exactly, do you propose that universities do with their endowments? Put them all in savings accounts?

Actually - yes. Or the large scale, low risk equivalent. Seeking profit shouldn't be part of a university's mission, particularly a public institution that the local community relies on. That would have stood out as unusual behavior until sometime in the 90s when universities started running themselves like corporations, with changes in university culture that inevitably come with such a change.

Profit seeking should be left to scumbag universities like the "University" of Phoenix.
posted by MillMan at 12:58 PM on September 10, 2012


As for cutting academic salaries: yeah, great. See how that international and out-of-province tuition money rolls in when people realize they're enrolling at a university which can only afford to hire "professors" who are incapable of finding a job at any other reputable university in the world. That's a great way to turn an excellent university into something closer to a second rate community college.

I personally know people with very strong PhDs who are teaching at American state universities and colleges for less than half the McGill average -- and they would jump at the chance to work in Montreal (and have access to McGill's library resources). No, someone who has a choice between working at Yale or McGill won't come over for less money - but you could have their equally talented colleague who just happened to have a topic that was less fashionable in a flash.
posted by jb at 1:01 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


4000 Canadians dollar/year = €3205 per years. To me that's just insane! Lucky my BA was about 800 euro/year and my MA 600 euro/year.
posted by - at 1:04 PM on September 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


Actually - yes. Or the large scale, low risk equivalent. Seeking profit shouldn't be part of a university's mission, particularly a public institution that the local community relies on.

So you're saying (perhaps without fully realizing that this is what you are saying) that universities should deliberately let their endowments lose pace against inflation year over year over year.

That sounds like a really bad idea. No one (or no one sane) is suggesting that universities seek to "profit" from their endowments. They are suggesting that they invest them in low-to-moderate risk securities and other instruments so as to serve the university's needs with the money as well as possible. The University of California, for example, has a target for its investments which is basically just tracking the historical rate of the S&P 500. This isn't some crazy hedge-fund speculation game we're talking about.

If I had enough money to give to endow a chair at a university and that university told me that they would simply put the money I gave them into a savings account, I simply wouldn't give it to them. They might as well tell me that they're going to piss it away on parties (in fact, that would be MORE productive). Any donor will want to know that they money they give will be sensibly managed so as to safely maximize its effectiveness.

Again, pointing to a once-in-a-lifetime cataclysm like the Great Recession as proof that universities were gambling wildly on the stock market is simply dishonest. Yes, some fund managers at some universities undoubtedly overreached; but the vast majority were and are simply trying to do the sanest thing with the money that is entrusted to them.
posted by yoink at 1:07 PM on September 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I feel compelled to defend myself by saying that I do, in fact, know what an endowment is. And while 'playing the ponies' is hyperbole, I do think that many university endowment managers are overly aggressive in their investment strategies. 2008 is a particularly painful example.

University administrators should be working with students to push back against unreasonable government funding cuts and austerity measures, but they've capitulated again and again for decades. It's been too easy for them to go back to the well of student debt.

Ultimately, I blame governments (and the voters) for the ridiculous, unending war on taxes that is leaving just about every public good scrambling to survive.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 1:10 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Canadian universities are not (for the most part) private universities - -they do not live and die by their endowments. Some wish they were "Havards of the North" but really they are the "Illinois of the East North" and they live by government funding. They are the tertiary part of our public education system.


Ultimately, I blame governments (and the voters) for the ridiculous, unending war on taxes that is leaving just about every public good scrambling to survive.

amen.
posted by jb at 1:21 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


University administrators should be working with students to push back against unreasonable government funding cuts and austerity measures, but they've capitulated again and again for decades. It's been too easy for them to go back to the well of student debt.

And just what, exactly, is the leverage that university faculty and administration is supposed to hold over governments to force them not to cut funding in a period of parlous state and provincial budgets all over North America? Are we supposed to suggest that the voting public will rise up en masse and revolt unless the universities are adequately funded?

Where is this mythical university administrator who just loves "going to the well of student debt" and thinks that that is "easier" than receiving a nice fat check from the state? Every university HATES raising tuition. They know that this will mean endless grousing and unhappiness from the students (even if, in fact, there are extremely generous tuition remissions for genuinely financially challenged students). They know that it makes their university less competitive for the very best students. Where is there a university administration of a public university that has not repeatedly lobbied the state government to keep funding as high as possible?

You know, I believe that university education should be freely provided by the state, but I can't help getting just a bit ticked off with the unbelievably childish level of most students' take on this issue. There seems to be no attempt to understand the actual constraints within which a university operates; no willingness to understand that the money for a quality tertiary education does actually have to come from somewhere. It's all just "we want our goodies and you're a big meanie for not giving them to us for free!!!" I've sat in meetings with people desperately trying to think of ways to avoid increasing tuition in the face of devastating government budget cuts, putting absolutely everything on the table, much of it central to the university's research mission. It then gets just a bit irritating to listen to the conversation among students and see that their image of all of this is that we're sitting around on our gold-plated hoverscooters chuckling gleefully about being able to soak them for the money for a free supply of diamond-encrusted tongue scrapers.
posted by yoink at 1:34 PM on September 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I personally know people with very strong PhDs who are teaching at American state universities and colleges for less than half the McGill average

You realize that that $112K figure cited above is the average for FULL professors, right? Are any of your friends with "very strong" but sadly "unfashionable" PhD's FULL professors earning less than 56K at an American university?

I'm afraid that a university faculty made entirely of people who have arrived at the pinnacle of their academic careers (being made full professor) and are earning 56K or less would simply not be competitive. Some of them might, indeed, be doing some very interesting work, but you're kidding yourself if you think that if that was your faculty recruitment pool the only weakness you'd find in that pool would be a lack of "fashionable" research interests.
posted by yoink at 1:40 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm afraid that a university faculty made entirely of people who have arrived at the pinnacle of their academic careers (being made full professor) and are earning 56K or less would simply not be competitive. Some of them might, indeed, be doing some very interesting work, but you're kidding yourself if you think that if that was your faculty recruitment pool the only weakness you'd find in that pool would be a lack of "fashionable" research interests.

Well, what Canadian universities have chosen to do instead is hire some of their faculty full-time (and yes, junior faculty can make $80-100k within a few years of their PhD in Canada), and hire the rest at about $10-30k per year as adjuncts. How does this help the "competitiveness" (what competition? since when are universities in some kind of university olympics?) or - what is much more important - the quality of research AND teaching?
posted by jb at 2:34 PM on September 10, 2012


One point of clarity about professor salaries, which always comes up in debates about teachers: the majority of instruction in higher education in Canada and the U.S. is performed by part-time, adjunct faculty, most of whom do not earn even a full-time wage, let alone a generous one. The numbers are shocking (Canada's numbers here): as of 2009 not even 25% of students are taught by full-time, tenured or tenure-track faculty. 41% of teaching is done by part-time, adjunct faculty (in Canada, sessional faculty), in both countries.

This is only one point of the dismantling of higher education in both countries (temp teachers are much cheaper and are a far, far weaker labor interest). A second point is that provincial/state governments have drastically cut their long-standing levels of funding to public colleges and universities (here in California it has truly been an order of magnitude--the California State University, which is the largest university system in the U.S., enrolls nearly half a million students and we have seen our funding cut by 40% since 2008--and if Prop. 30 doesn't pass here in November, we'll lose another 15% or so of what's left). Looking at the numbers in this thread, it has not been this bad in Canada (yet), but the same trend is obviously emerging.

So what can a university do when the state/provincial government just abandons its commitment to higher education? Think through the revenue options available: increase tuition and fees or seek profit through some degree of privatization. Both are bad for the communities, regions, states/provinces, and nations these institutions serve because both options are bad for students and for educational integrity.

Finally, comments like 'pssht! 7k a year should be easy to earn' kind of miss the point entirely, for several reasons: the financial situation of every student is different; jobs are actually hard to find (if you haven't heard); jobs available to students are quite low-paying; and students are in school to, you know, learn and stuff, and every hour they're out washing dishes or flipping burgers is an hour they are not studying, learning, and practicing what they've been assigned by their teachers. (Seriously: many of my students--not a few, many--are completely self-supporting, and break their backs to balance 30+ hour work weeks with full-time schooling, all while bearing the responsibility of fully supporting themselves with no safety net, parental or otherwise. This does not allow for focus on education as is demanded by any decent college curriculum.)
posted by LooseFilter at 2:35 PM on September 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


Not sure it's related or not but I tried to call McGill this morning to reset my PIN number (which I have somehow forgotten in 16 years) so I could order a transcript online, and was told the expected wait time on hold would be 45 to 60 minutes.
Then 5 minutes ago this evening I got a call from a 514-398-xxxx number and at first I was like, wow, they're calling me back!... then I remembered: no, just another alumni fund-raising call.
posted by Flashman at 3:26 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


To repeat the classic point in this debate: income-linked tuition is already in place. They call it a "progressive tax rate".

It's all just "we want our goodies and you're a big meanie for not giving them to us for free!!!"

Er, that's sort of reasonable, if you think it should be paid by the government, and you are lobbying/pressuring the government, which is what students in Quebec are doing. The last strike I was in (2005), everybody understood most administrators were just bystanders, doing what they could with what they had.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 3:39 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's all just "we want our goodies and you're a big meanie for not giving them to us for free!!!"

It seems that we could solve some of our problems by retroactively taking from the wallets of those who came before who benefited from a free public higher education. Slap them with a five figure tax bill and tell them they can pay it off over ten years?
posted by Talez at 3:45 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Flashman: Of the three institutions I've attended, McGill's alumnni association certainly has been the best in tracking me down, many country and city moves later. Maybe to raise some scratch they can hire out their alumni association folks to do some collection agency work.

On a more serious note, one thing I've never seen discussed is the possibility of contracting universities in North America. There have been two big pulses of expansion in the 20th century related to demographics (and in the US, a big push from the GI bill). The cohorts coming out of high school are going to get smaller. Shouldn't higher educational institutions contract likewise?

Also, despite perhaps having over-indulged in university degrees myself, I'm not quite sure that our current model, where an undergraduate university degree is essentially compulsory for white collar work or the middle class generally, couldn't be questioned. Unfortunately, trade schools are poorly regarded, even if they can lead to valuable, well-paid and worthwhile work (that is, in Canada: my German friend tells me that technical institutes there are so rigorous that they have equal or greater social cachet). But further contraction may result if the necessity of securing an undergraduate academic credential is questioned.

I guess I wonder whether in the face of difficult public funding, and assuming we believe that accessible tertiary education is a Good Thing (indeed, I think it should be free, or re-paid based on income-contingent basis), whether we shouldn't contract academic institutions and perhaps improve technical institutions as a way to find other ways.
posted by bumpkin at 3:47 PM on September 10, 2012


You know maybe "pay it back or pay it forward" should be the catchcry of movement against student tuition increases. Either pay back your discounted public education comparable to what the students of today pay or pay for students to go to higher education without crippling their future.
posted by Talez at 3:51 PM on September 10, 2012 [7 favorites]


>McGill is probably our very best university in Canada, and a local student here will pay about 4k for a year doing his undergrad studies. Compare that to a top tier school in the US.

>>Or, far more importantly, do not compare that to a top tier school in the US, where massively inflated tuitions are now the norm.


No, no, do compare. Do compare and realize what debt-bondage havoc has been wrought by out-of-control tuition increases in America on the lives of young people, on families not in the upper middle class and higher. Compare and realize that Canada is not America, should not attempt to emulate America, and should hew a little goddamn closer, Harper and his cadre of shithawks notwithstanding, to the principles our nation holds dear.

It may (very arguably) be that $4000 for tuition is low for 2012 -- hell, I went from about $400 to about $1500 during the 5 years I was at UBC back in the early 1980s, as I recall -- but suggesting that it should be anything like the ludicrous fees that Americans have to pay for education, that's foolish, and Canadians would benefit from a clear-eyed consideration of the benefits the nation reaps from affordable tertiary schooling.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:07 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


If affordability is the issue, I'm all for the government giving out more scholarships linked to how well you do in school. Give the really excellent students a free ride, and then give the above average students a high subsidy, the average students an average subsidy etc. It's awesome to say "This should be free for everyone" but our province is so in debt and I'm guessing there's not enough money to go around funding all of these lovely social programs (7$ a day daycares, paid paternity leave... Quebec has many social programs that the rest of Canada does not - and we can't necessarily afford them either).

Not to mention that I still don't have a family doctor and I haven't for years... they don't see that as a big issue because they figure I can go to the ER or a walk in clinic, except that nobody at a walk in clinic wants to hear about your depression or social anxiety, they always refer you back to your non existant primary care physician. Sometimes I'd rather pay for what I really want
posted by Hazelsmrf at 6:12 PM on September 10, 2012


while $4-6k isn't THAT expensive, we should all oppose tuition hikes because we don't want to turn into the US, where even many state universities are unaffordable.

Tuition hikes aren't the cause; they're the effect of state budgets being gutted to support low taxes.

And tuition hikes that keep pace with inflation aren't tuition hikes at all; anything less and it's a tuition cut in real terms (which is why Quebec college/university students today pay significantly less than their parents did).
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:39 PM on September 10, 2012


(which is why Quebec college/university students today pay significantly less than their parents did).

Not really. Tuition was frozen to $500 until 1990 ($774 in 2012 dollars; $130 in 1970 dollars). They went to around $1600 in the early 90s, and then went up again recently (and will go up even more if no freeze is taken).

You have a point for the periods where tuition was frozen, of course: a 1993 student was paying $1409 in 1989 dollars; his 2005 peer, only $1125. (curse you, low inflation!)
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:39 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I find it interesting to reflect on the fact that, back in the late 1980s I attended university in BC, and tuition in BC was the highest in Canada. At that time tuition at my school accounted for 12% of the university's revenue.

In Quebec, students are arguing to keep the tuition frozen at about 13% of the university revenue...

Meanwhile, now that I am through school, I am witnessing all the programs that helped me get through school (the grant programs, the childcare subsidies) be cut, while my taxes are also being cut.

I completely agree with the pay it back or pay it forward mantra.
posted by chapps at 10:59 PM on September 10, 2012


Also worth noting

"In order if impact, the factors that make the biggest difference in people's health are:
1. income
2. education
3. social support network
4. employment and work conditions
5. early childhood development
6. physical environment
7. personal health practices
8. biological and genetic factors
9. health services
10. gender
11. culture; and
12. mass media technology (i.e. television viewing and physical activity)"

(Meili, R. 2012. A Healthy Society: How a Focus on Health can Revive Canadian Democracy. page 23)

And since education increases income...
posted by chapps at 11:02 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'll say this for McGill. I picked up a lot of college T-shirts on a visit to the Eastern seaboard in 1992, and the McGill one is the only one left - and still in surprisingly good shape. McGill, if you shared your 1992-era T-shirt formula with the world, we need never go shirtless again.
posted by rory at 1:58 AM on September 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


universities are playing the ponies and expecting students to make up their losses.

According to their financial reports, they took a 26.7% loss from 4/08 to 4/09 which is completely reasonable. That doesn't indicate any sort of wild speculation, but rather reflects the reality that there was a rather precipitous drop in the value of everything that year.

If they had, instead, always invested in something risk-free they'd have a lot less money as they would've had almost no return. Indicting them for sound investing is nonsense.

"Here is a list of the 10 highest paid university administrators in Quebec based on documents filed with the National Assembly last fall:

All those salaries look completely reasonable to me. There aren't a lot of people who have both the desire and the ability to effectively run a billion dollar company. If somebody successfully dedicates themselves to the pursuit of that ability, they tend to be worth some money to the company.

I've seen some execs whose compensation clearly had little to no relationship to the value they brought to the firm, but that list looks very reasonable.
posted by grudgebgon at 5:41 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


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