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Students walk through McGill University campus in Montreal, on Oct. 13.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Quebec’s English-language universities are now waiting to hear whether the province will consider a new tiered-tuition proposal that will charge out-of-province students different amounts based on the program they attend, and bring fees more in line with programs in other parts of the country.

On Saturday, McGill University, Concordia University and Bishop’s University jointly submitted a counterproposal to a significant tuition spike announced by the provincial government in October that meant soaring fees for the thousands of anglophone students that come to the Quebec schools each year.

The new proposal would see out-of-province students in the arts and sciences charged lower tuition, for example, than engineering and medical students, adopting a practice that already exists in other parts of the country.

“We feel the latest proposal is a fair and well-considered compromise,” Concordia president and vice-chancellor Graham Carr said in a statement Sunday.

Mr. Carr said the new tuition proposal, which includes an earlier commitment to increase French-language requirements at the universities, “strikes the correct balance,” and will keep the schools competitive both in Canada and internationally.

Simon Savignac, the director of communications for Pascale Déry, Quebec’s Minister of Higher Education, said in an e-mail Saturday that she would respond shortly to the proposal.

McGill, Concordia will ‘just have to adapt’ to tuition hike, Quebec says

The counteroffer from the three institutions would create three tiers of tuition. Arts and science students, who account for 79 per cent of all out-of-province enrolment, would pay $9,000, engineering and computer-science students $14,000, and medical and law students $20,000. These changes would bring or keep tuition fees in all faculties more in line with universities in the rest of the Canada.

McGill, Concordia and Bishop’s are all reporting substantial drops in enrolments since Premier François Legault announced in October that non-francophone students from outside the province would face a near doubling of tuition fees. At the time, Mr. Legault said that the number of anglophone students in Quebec was threatening the survival of French.

The current tuition hike would mean out-of-province students in programs such as arts, science, nursing and education would pay $17,000, an increase from about $9,000. That is nearly three times tuition for the same programs at the University of Toronto or the University of British Columbia, according to a presentation by McGill, Concordia and Bishop’s.

Earlier this month, La Presse reported that Quebec was considering reducing the tuition hike to about $12,000 – an alternative plan, the universities noted in their presentation, that would still keep fees significantly higher for the vast majority of their out-of-province students.

Mr. Carr said that Concordia has seen an 18-per-cent decline in applications to date from students in the rest of the Canada, and a 32-per-cent drop in international applications.

McGill has reported a drop of 20 per cent. Blaming financial pressures, the school announced an immediate hiring freeze on Dec 1.

Bishop’s University principal Sébastien Lebel-Grenier has said the tuition spike could be catastrophic for the school, where nearly one-third of students come from outside Quebec.

Given that students are currently making admission decisions for next September, the schools have also asked the province to delay any new tuition measures for one year. A pause, Mr. Carr said, “will allay the confusion we’re currently hearing from potential students,” and give the universities more time to formalize any change.

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