Another Way to Pay

Student Groups: University Price Tag Doesn’t Have To Rise

With students energized and united by student unions and lobby groups against the Charest government’s proposed tuition hikes, funding alternatives—like free education, or at least reasonable fees and better governance—are being proposed.

But adequate funding alternatives will require a major overhaul, as well as an ideological one, to make this happen.

“It is a question of political will,” said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, communications secretary for the student lobby group L’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante. “[The province] has the money to do it, but must decide where [they’re] going to take it. From students already paying? Or, [from] where it is: big corporations and rich people.”
Holly Nazar, of Free Education Montreal, similarly said there are “a bunch of places where taxes are practically non-existent, or actually are.”

Citing figures from research think-tank L’Institut de recherche et d’information socio-économique, Nazar indicated that increasing taxes on the financial capital of banking institutions from 0.98 per cent to 1.5 per cent would generate $271 million in revenue—$6 million more than the funds to come from increasing tuition fees.

According to IRIS, the provincial government lost $950 million in potential revenue by cutting household taxes in 2007 that “especially favoured the most affluent individuals.”
Since 2000, the Quebec government has implemented over $5 billion in tax relief for corporations and individual incomes. A free-education model, according to IRIS, would cost $700 million annually in funding to implement.

This is in addition to maintaining core funding, which the Quebec Government has valued at $320 million in their proposed university-funding plan.

FEM calculated the cost to implement free education and maintain core funding to be $1.22 billion annually, a mere two per cent of Quebec’s annual budget.

More Accessible to Whom?

Nazar explained that policy in la belle province has recently shifted towards catering to economic interests rather than the public good.

“There is a perception that Quebec is socialist,” said Nazar, “but we are looking out for the concerns of corporations and the rich, and we’re even rewarding private money infiltrating into universities by offering them incentives to do so.”

Though proponents of the tuition fee increase promise to maintain accessibility in attaining higher education training, this is doublespeak, according to Nazar. Increasing tuition fees lowers enrollment, she said bluntly—no matter what.

“Just repeat the lie. Repeat over and over that accessibility won’t suffer. Where’s the evidence?”
In late October, the British Broadcast Corporation reported that following a £6,000 raise in tuition by the government for 2012, applications to English universities dropped nine per cent.

Desjardins said she also believes lower fees will result in a more-accessible education system, but that we must know all the facts before proceeding in any direction, which is why the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec is lobbying to continue the tuition freeze, so that policy makers, advocates and students alike have time to see the implications of changing tuition fees.

As she prepares for Thursday’s province-wide demonstration, Nazar ultimately wants students to be more aware and united. If not, accessible education will not be possible.
“Concordia students need to realize that its not about $325 a [semester], it’s about getting fucked over. I imagine many people can pay the increase, but that’s not the point—many more cannot.”

Three Options for Alternative Funding

These propositions from FEM would have the wealthy help fund free education through higher taxes, while accounting for necessary funding.
This would cost $1.22 billion annually.

#1 — Immediately start taxing 100 per cent of capital gains, or the profit a company sees from their own assets such as stock and property acquisition, instead of just 50 per cent, which is the current policy of the province. This could create $346 million in potential funding. Further, return income tax to pre-2007, yielding $950 million.

#2 — Tax Quebec’s $346 million in capital gains and raise $702 million from raising taxes by 1.4 per cent on the financial capital of banks to 2.4 per cent. In the second year, increase taxes on highest-income earners from 24 to 25.4 per cent, generating $294 million.

#3 — Increase financial capital taxes from 0.98 per cent to 2.4 per cent, raising an additional $702 million. Raise the taxes on the highest-income earners in this province from 24 per cent to 26 per cent—which would make for an additional $420 million. This leaves $100 million to be accounted for by other government funding plans already in place.

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