Quebec's government has fined McGill University $2-million for the school's unilateral decision to raise its tuition for an MBA - from $1,700 to $29,500.
For nearly a year, the province has been locked in a standoff with McGill. Education Minister Line Beauchamp argued that keeping universities on equal financial footing is crucial to making them accessible to all, while McGill countered that the cost of educating an MBA student was $10,000 more than the combined revenues from government grants and tuition fees.
The fine serves as a warning to any other schools eyeing McGill's precedent-setting move, just days before Quebec unveils a budget that will hike the province's tuition fees, which are currently Canada's lowest. Tens of thousands in Montreal and Quebec City have protested any tuition increases.
Dave Leclerc, a spokesman for Ms. Beauchamp, said the $2-million figure is calculated based on McGill's enrolment numbers and the nearly $11,000 in funding Quebec universities receive for each MBA student, and will come out of the school's provincial subsidies.
"The other universities follow the rules. Why doesn't McGill?" he said.
A spokesperson for McGill said the university would not comment Monday. But in December, the dean of McGill's Desautels Faculty of Management, Peter Todd, told The Globe and Mail that McGill would not turn back if penalized.
"I think at some point you have to recognize that you're going to fund universities with different missions in different ways. That's common in other places, and Quebec should probably think about that a little bit," Mr. Todd said at the time.
Starting last fall, McGill declined government grants in favour of self-funding its MBA program, arguing that tuition and government funds no longer covered the costs of educating each student, and citing the need to stay competitive with other top MBA programs that already charge more than $30,000 per year. McGill's MBA students have repeatedly expressed support for the school's position through the program's student association.
But Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, a spokesman for the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante, said the student group had hoped the government would force McGill to reverse its decision, and worries the penalty is too soft to deter schools from further privatizing program fees.
"[The penalty is]better than nothing, but it is clearly not enough for us," Mr. Nadeau-Dubois said. "We think [McGill's stance]is only the first sign of a larger crisis in our universities."