Conseil supérieur de l'éducation
 
The Advisory Committee’s Last Three Briefs

By Paul Vigneau,
Secretary of the Advisory Committee on the
Financial Accessibility of Education

At the end of 2001, the Committee sent the Minister of Education three briefs, on risk-sharing and income-contingent loan repayment, on the special fees required of certain college-level students and on the budgetary rules governing higher education, respectively. These briefs can be downloaded from the Conseil’s Web site.

Risk-sharing and income-contingent loan repayment

The Committee stated its position on risk sharing and income-contingent loan repayment. These subjects are addressed in the report of the expert group on the student loan repayment terms, The repayment of student loans: a precondition for the continuation of the Loans and Bursaries Program (Montmarquette report), concerning which the Minister had requested the Committee’s opinion. The Committee recommended that he reject the idea of risk sharing (between the government and the financial institutions) proposed by the expert group. At present, student loans are entirely covered by the government. If the financial institutions were to assume part of the risk—which in fact they are not willing to do—they would demand the right to choose the recipients of student loans, which would place a financial limit on access to higher education.

Although it recognizes that the establishment and implementation of an income-contingent repayment system deserve serious consideration, the Committee advises the Minister to first improve the present system for the repayment of student loans. He should give priority to measures that offer greater flexibility (terms of repayment) and those that increase the effectiveness of debt collection efforts. The Committee also recommends setting up a procedure for evaluating the measures being used, analyzing the comparative advantages of the current repayment system and an income-contingent system, carrying out simulations of risk-sharing and doing research on the costs of introducing and running such a system. The Committee’s position is based on its analysis of the experiences of various countries with regard to income-contingent loan repayment.

Abolition of the "failure tax"

The Committee fully supports the Minister’s decision to eliminate, beginning in the winter 2002 semester, the "success incentive fee" required of college-level students who fail more than one course per semester. There is no evidence of a correlation between the higher success rate observed since 1997 and the imposition of this fee in the fall semester of the same year. Higher admission criteria and better management of enrollments in courses (demonstrated on the key dates of September 20 and February 15) had a greater impact on the success rate than did the special fee. Finally, the Committee advises the Minister and the CEGEPs to make sure that no students are prevented from continuing their studies because of an unpaid success incentive fee.

Budgetary rules for higher education

The budgetary rules have been modified to increase the fees paid by Canadian students (who are not Québec residents) and foreign students, whether they are enrolled at the university or college level.

The Committee did not make a statement on the tuition increases for Canadian and foreign students enrolled in Québec universities because it wants to consider this issue later on in light of the government’s orientations and policies on the matter.

As regards college-level education, the Committee recommends that the Minister abandon the increase in tuition fees for Canadian students that is slated for 2002-2003 and instead base any increase in its tuition rates on data concerning college-level tuition in the other provinces, especially Ontario and New Brunswick, as it did when it introduced these tuition fees in 2000-2001. At present, the increases proposed by the Ministère have been calculated on the basis of data concerning increases at the university level rather than at the college level. The Committee also recommends that the projected tuition hike for foreign students enrolled at the college level be halved. Otherwise, tuition for these students enrolling in programs in the biological technology sector, for example, could be as high as $12 000 a year.

Panorama • Volume 7, Number 1 • February 2002

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