Today’s Lesson: Student Strikes Keep Education Affordable

Question: Why should students strike against tuition hikes?
Answer: Because it is worth it.

Quebec students with four decades of strikes and protests for affordable education, have the lowest tuition in North America. Presently, they are striking province-wide against tuition hikes. Meanwhile, Americans who rarely protested or held student strikes, have been ‘rewarded’ with the highest tuition, to the point that many openly question whether a university degree can now be affordable or is even “worth it”.

Consequences 1: 

A recent Washington Post article, Student loans seen as potential ‘next debt bomb’ for U.S. economyshould serve as a trenchant warning to Quebec and Canada. “The amount of student borrowing skyrocketed from $100 billion in 2010 to $867 billion last year”, they wrote. It would be a sad irony if student debt competes with medical expenses debt for the leading cause of American bankruptcies.

Consequences 2: 

In the U.K., because government cuts to education to pay for among other things, the war in Afghanistan, “Tuition fees ‘must rise to £7,000’ ($10,850) to prevent university closures” according to The Telegraph.


The Dawson Community College in Montana, U.S. costs $3,006 year in tuition and fees – 15 to 30 times as much as the Dawson College (Cegep) in Montreal, Canada which charges $100 to $200 in student fees.


How come an average two year U.S. public college costs more than attending a Quebec university at a graduate level?

  • Why is tuition free in Quebec’s public two year college?
  • If student strikers and their families oppose tuition increases, and the political elites support increased tuition understand, what’s at stake?
  • What is the relationship between tuition, debt and bankruptcy?
  • Why do major Montreal newspapers use the current economic crisis to advocate tuition hikes that match the higher tuition outside the province?
  • Naomi Klein details in her important book Shock Capitalism, how “neo-liberals” use a crisis to institute radical changes towards privatization, de-fund public institutions, and raise user fees (i.e. tuition and medical co-payments) on public services. Government debt is seen a greater enemy than individual debt, high unemployment and low wages. Taxes on the wealthy are not raised, and regulations that hinder profits are relaxed.
  • Questions: Is Quebec in crisis? What is a neo-liberal?
  • Has the U.S. shown that attending class helps you move into the upper class, or do you face the risk of falling into the lower class?

To summarize:

Student strikers keep tuition lower. Obedient students go bankrupt. The right to education is threatened by the neo-liberal policies of raising tuition and transferring spending away from essential public services.



In the U.S. according to College Board:

  • In 2011-12, in-state students public four-year colleges charge, average $15,014 yearly in tuition and fees. The average surcharge for full-time out-of-state students at these institutions is $12,526 = $27,469.
  • The average amount of aid for a full-time undergraduate student was about $12,455, including more than $6,500 in grants that don’t have to be repaid. (Or $6,026 yearly that is an interest bearing loan).
  • Private nonprofit four-year colleges charge, cost on average $28,500 per year in tuition and fees.
  • Public two-year colleges (the Quebec Cegep equivalent) charge, on average, $2,963 per year in tuition and fees.

The tuition inflation rate in the US is between 2.1 and 2.5 times the general inflation rate.

Canada and Quebec:

Tuition is free in public Quebec two-year colleges (Cegeps).

Statistics Canada:
On average, Canadian undergraduate students paid $5,138 in tuition fees in 2010/2011 compared with $4,942 a year earlier.
Undergrads in Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador continued to have the lowest tuition fees, averaging $2,415 and $2,624 this year respectively, (an increase of +4.6% from 2009-2010).
Canadian graduate students paid an average of $5,182 in tuition fees for the current year, which is slightly more than the amount paid by undergraduate students,
Quebec graduates paid an average of $2,600 this year in tuition fees, (an increase of +6.4% from 2009-2010).

Nationally, the average tuition fees for foreign undergraduate students was $16,768 in 2010/2011, an increase of 5.2% over the previous year. (slightly more than US in-state tution, but radically less than US out of state tuition).
Nationally … students paid $702 in additional compulsory fees in 2010/2011, up from $656 a year earlier.

Health insurance compared:
Because health care and education are both targeted by Canadian neo-liberals for privatization and increased user fees.

The U.S.
The Kaiser report shows that since 2001, overall U.S. family insurance premiums have risen 113%, while the amount workers contribute to these premiums via deductions from a paycheck have soared 131% over the 2001-2011 span. What’s more, it’s more and more likely that workers have to pay more out of pocket for actual health services.

eHealth’s reports:
?? Between February 2010 and February 2011, the average premium increased 9.6% to $183/month for individual policies and increased 5.6% to $414/month for families
?? The average deductible for individual policies was $2,935, and the average deductible for family policies
was $3,879.

Harvard University study reports: 62% of all personal bankruptcies in the U.S. in 2007 were caused by health problems?and 78% of those filers had health insurance. (This was before the financial crisis).

Not too many people and families go bankrupt due to medical expenses. We pay for health insurance through our income taxes.

According to Bankruptcy Canada: “The last on our list of leading causes of bankruptcy in Canada, are medical problems; they often can and do lead to a lot of financial problems. Fortunately, in Canada most of our medical expenses, such as hospital care, are covered by the government, unlike in the United States where medical bills for uninsured Americans are a leading cause of bankruptcy in America. However, if you get sick or injured, and you are off work for a number of months, even with medical insurance your income is reduced, and that makes it more difficult to service your debts.”

Origional article: