Dear part-time faculty members,
Please find below, the position paper developed by Dr.Viviane Nameste of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute on the impact of tuition fees on women. The attached in both French/English, is the PDF. While our governments are dismantling our rights in the field of the arts, environment, labour, health care, pensions, etc. they continue to chip away to dismantle public education as their ultimate objective. The Association can never endorse increases in tuition for any student and will uphold this position to safeguard accessible and public education for all. Tuition increases hurts the most vulnerable, women definitely, and as well, needy international students, graduate students, and those on fixed incomes. Few acknowledge that Concordia students (80% of them) need to work for a living just to survive.
Support your students, they are young people and the future leaders
Maria E. Peluso,
Statement on Tuition Fees in Québec and their Impact on Women
The Simone de Beauvoir Institute, located at Concordia University in
Montréal, was established in 1978 as a site for the production of
critical knowledge and action on women’s lives. As part of this
mandate, members of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute (students, staff,
professors, Fellows and Research Associates) take positions on
contemporary social issues, particularly those likely to have an
impact on women. This was the case, for instance, with regard to the
2007 Bouchard- Taylor Commission, the 2009 Québec government Bill 94
on reasonable accommodations, and the 2010 Bedford decision on the
dangers of Canada’s prostitution laws for women. Our official
statements on these issues can be located at:
Here, we outline our official stance with respect to the Québec
government’s decision to authorize the increase of undergraduate
tuition fees in the amount of $1625 over the next five years.
Neoliberal Social Policies and their Impact on Women
The idea that tuition fees need to be raised so that universities have
the appropriate revenues to function is one typical of a neoliberal
era. Neoliberalism refers to a social system in which the state plays
a diminished role in ensuring that the basic needs of its citizens are
met. Neoliberalism is characterized by public-private partnerships,
the retreat of the welfare state (social programs such as Employment
Insurance), the defunding and deregulation of state institutions, and
the shift of service provision from state institutions to community
organizations. Neoliberal social policy gives priority to a logic of
the economy and cost saving. The decision to authorize the increase in
tuition fees is, as such, a neoliberal policy in which the state plays
a diminished role in funding postsecondary education in Québec.
Neoliberal policy has particularly negative consequences on women.
When, for example, hospitals discharge patients early because of
budgetary constraints, it is primarily women who are impacted, through
the unpaid care giving work they provide in such cases.1 Similarly,
social policy on raising postsecondary tuition fees in Québec affects
Access to Postsecondary Education for Women and their Children
For decades now, feminists have argued that women earn less than men
for doing the same work. Recent statistics support this claim: the
latest data available from 2008 demonstrate that women still earn 71
cents for every dollar earned by men.2 Asking individuals to
contribute more to their post-secondary education costs, then, affects
women in particular. Since women still earn less than men overall,
raising tuition fees will impact women first. This is an example of
social policy that perpetuates gender inequality.
If we consider the case of single mothers (who still constitute the
majority of single-parent families), it is clear that tuition
increases will affect not only these women, but their children as
well. Eric Martin and Maxime Ouellet, authors of Université Inc: Des
mythes sur la hausse des frais de scolarité et l’économie du savoir,
argue that a two-parent family would need to allocate 10% of its
revenue to fund a BA for one child; in the case of single mothers,
however, a woman would need to allocate 18% of her income to ensure
her child obtains a BA.3 Educational funding policy which requires the
contribution of individual consumers quietly bypasses the reality that
such policy demands more from single mothers. Raising tuitions fees in
Québec entrenches inequality for single mothers and their children,
since they need to allocate more of their income to obtain the same
access to state-funded institutions.
Long-Term Consequences of Increased Tuition Fees for Women
Some proponents of raising tuition fees contend that, since individuals who have a university education will earn more throughout their lifetimes, they should assume a part of the financial cost. Such proponents use an economic rhetoric, stating that students now need to “invest” in their future. But again, this argument falls short when we consider that even with a postsecondary diploma, men and women do not earn the same income. On average, a woman with such a diploma will earn $863 268 less than a man with the same diploma over the course of her lifetime.4 Suppose that two students – one a man, one a woman – each finish a BA with a debt of $25 000. Each and every month, the woman has to spend more of her income to pay back her debt. Asking individuals to “invest” in their future asks women to pay more, proportionally speaking, than men
over their lifetimes.
The Québec government is asking women to “invest” in their sustained inequality for decades to come. We reject this kind of neoliberal logic, and advocate a system in which access to Québec postsecondary education is equal for men and women – now and in the future.
Pedagogical Implications of Raising Tuition Fees: Faculty Perspectives
Objections to raising tuition fees generally focus on the position of
students, and with good reason, since they are the ones most impacted.
Nevertheless, members of the teaching faculty at the Simone de
Beauvoir Institute maintain that raising tuition fees will have
negative consequences for teaching and learning more broadly. The more
expensive tuition is, the less diversity there will be in the
classroom, since access is dependent on financial resources.
Statistics Canada reports that “visible minority” women were more
likely to be in a low income situation than non-visible minority
women.5 Similarly, compared to their non-Aboriginal counterparts,
Aboriginal women are less likely to have a university degree. In 2006,
9% of Aboriginal women aged 25 and over had a university degree,
compared with 20% of non- Aboriginal women.
Members of the Institute understand that diversity is central to the
teaching work they do. They see the work of postsecondary teaching as
one of preparing students to engage in critical inquiry and dialogue
with others, offering them skills and analysis to guide them
throughout their lives. The work of critical pedagogy is facilitated
through a diverse classroom. When social policy results in the
exclusion of women and people from diverse backgrounds from
postsecondary education, the work of teaching is compromised.
Ensuring equitable access to state-funded education not only supports
students; it is one concrete way to support the work of postsecondary
teachers, as well.
We Have the Financial Resources to Make Equitable Access a Priority
Public debate on raising postsecondary tuition fees in Québec often
assumes that the financial resources do not exist to make universal,
equitable access to education a political priority. We contend that,
collectively, Québec does have the resources required to ensure that
all men and women have equitable access to postsecondary education. A
redistribution of resources could make equal access to education
possible, as suggested in the following examples:
Bonuses given to managers of sociétés d’état in 2010 totalled $105 000 000. Imposing licensing fees on mining and industrial manufacturing companies’ use of water in Québec could yield 775 million dollars annually (0,01$/litre of water used).8
Summary and Conclusion
On the question of raising tuition fees for postsecondary education,
members of the Simone de Beauvoir Institute underline:
Thinking about women and social policy means thinking beyond so-called
“women’s issues” such as sexual harassment or daycare. While these
issues are important, we also need to understand the way social
policies impact women in particular.
Given that women still do not earn the same salaries as men, raising
tuition fees means that women will pay more for their education now
and in the decades it takes them to pay back their debt. Raising
tuition fees perpetuates gender inequality now and in the future.
Increased tuition fees mean there will be a less diverse classroom,
which will in turn impoverish opportunities for learning among
students and faculty. We advocate social policy which facilitates
access to postsecondary education, in order to ensure our classrooms
are truly diverse and a rich site of dialogue and exchange.
Social policy which discourages women’s involvement in postsecondary
education is not good social policy.
Québec has the financial resources required to properly fund
postsecondary education and to ensure that women and men can access
state-funded education equally. It is time for a genuine debate about
how the Québec government should allocate its resources to make
equitable access to postsecondary education a political priority.
Simone de Beauvoir Institute Concordia University
Media Contact: Viviane Namaste, Ph.D.
Professor, Simone de Beauvoir Institute
514-848-2424 x 2371 or firstname.lastname@example.org
1 Pat Armstrong and Hugh Armstrong, Wasting Away: The Undermining of Canadian Health Care, Toronto, Oxford University Press (Wynford Project Edition), 2010.
2 Gouvernement du Canada, L’écart salarial entre les femmes et les
hommes, July 29, 2010.
3 Eric Martin et Maxime Ouellet, Université Inc. Des mythes sur la
hausse des frais de scolarité et l’économie du savoir, Montréal, Lux,
2011, p. 16.
4 Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, L’éducation
universitaire : un outil pour passer de l’égalité de droit à l’égalité
de fait. Mémoire de la FEUQ sur le renouvellement du plan d’action
gouvernemental sur l’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes, Montréal,
2011, p. p.iii.
5 Chui, T. and Maheux, H. (2011). Visible Minority Women. In Ferro,
V. and Williams, C., Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical
Report Catalogue no.: 89-503-XIE (sixth edition). Release date:
December 14, 2011. Statistics Canada. Available from
6 O’Donnell, V. and Wallace, A. (2011). First Nations, Métis and
Inuit Women. In Ferrao, V. and Williams, C. Women in Canada: A
Gender-based Statistical Report Catalogue no.: 89- 503-XIE (sixth
edition). Release date: December 14, 2011. Statistics Canada.
Available from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-503-x/2010001/article/11442-eng.htm.
7 Omar Aktouf, “La marchandisation de l’éducation et le faux alibi de la pauvreté de l’état au Québec,” dans Eric Martin et Maxime Ouellet, Université Inc. Des mythes sur la hausse des frais de scolarité et l’économie du savoir, Montréal, Lux, 2011, p 143.
8 Solidarités. Édition spéciale. Éducation publique et gratuite: Un choix de société cher à Québec Solidaire, novembre 2011, p. A3. www.pressegauche.org/IMG/pdf/journal_QS.pdf
Lectures additionnelles / Further Reading
Eric Martin et Maxime Ouellet, Université inc. Des mythes sur la hausse des frais de scolarité et l’économie du savoir, Montréal, Lux, 2011.
Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, L’éducation universitaire : un outil pour passer de l’égalité de droit à l’égalité de fait. Mémoire de la FEUQ sur le renouvellement du plan d’action gouvernemental sur l’égalité entre les femmes et les hommes, Montréal, 2011.
Normand Baillergeon, Je ne suis pas une PME. Plaidoyer pour une université publique, Montréal, Éditions les poètes de brousse, 2011.