Montreal

Ministry's OK for McGill MBA fees splits students

Student groups are divided over the deal between the Quebec government and McGill University to allow it to continue charging its MBA students nine times the provincial cap on tuition fees.

Student groups are divided over the deal between the Quebec government and McGill University to allow it to continue charging its MBA students nine times the provincial cap on tuition fees.

The Montreal school began charging $29,500 a year for its MBA program last fall, drawing the government's ire. But McGill and the Education Ministry revealed Friday they've reached a deal  to permit the jacked-up fees to continue, as long as the university transforms its program into a "specialized" MBA focused on international business.

Pat Tenneriello, president of the MBA Student Association at McGill, said 70 per cent of his group's members agree with the tuition hike as long as it means a better education. Tenneriello, who has had to take a loan himself, said he considers the tens of thousands of dollars in increased fees an investment in his future.

"Most students have the opportunity to get a student loan through Desjardins [bank] for up to $80,000, so that's what I was approved for," Tenneriello said. "It's quite the investment, but hopefully it'll pay out in the long run."

The province's largest student organization, the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, countered that those who qualify for the MBA program but can't find the cash to pay the extra tuition are being excluded. President Martine Desjardins also said the province's decision sets a bad precedent for other universities.

"What the government is saying to them, it's like: 'Do whatever you want. Eventually, we'll give you the right to do whatever you want to do with your program.' "

Possible court battle

Education Minister Line Beauchamp said in a statement Friday that other schools in Quebec already offer "similar programs," but Desjardins said her association could still take the government to court over its deal with McGill.

The university's Post-Graduate Students' Society also has concerns about accessibility and the precedent set by the massive tuition hike.

"We'd like McGill to keep an MBA that is accessible not only for the students that can afford to pay $30,000 a year to study, but also to students that have the intellectual capacity to do an MBA," said Mariève Isabel, a society vice-president.

McGill will have to alter its program to meet the terms of its agreement with the government, by adding foreign teachers and mandatory overseas stints for students. That new curriculum is set to launch in fall 2012.

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