Financing institutions of higher education:
Towards a joint effort
Montreal, February 12, 2007 Today, the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal is presenting an update to its brief titled Institutions of higher education: A critical issue for the economic engine of Quebec.
For the Board of Trade, the underfunding of universities is an extremely worrisome issue, requiring an immediate and creative response. At a time when wealth creation depends on the complete mastery and innovative application of knowledge, the training of a skilled labour force is more vital than ever. It is therefore important to give institutions of higher education the necessary financial means and flexibility to attract and retain the most highly qualified professors, researchers, and students, declared Isabelle Hudon, president and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.
Since there is no doubt that a world-class university system is at the heart of the metropolis's economic competitiveness, the Board of Trade proposes that all beneficiaries of the university network the government, students, and companies should each do their part. The active participation of all these players is essential if university funding is to be sustainably improved.
In Quebec, the hotbed of high-knowledge economic activity is clearly Greater Montreal. This is due to the presence of a critical mass of university research and education: four universities on the Island of Montreal, four major schools, university campuses across the metropolitan area, more than 170,000 students, and 75% of Quebec's university research.
It is thus with a view to making a responsible contribution to this debate that the Board of Trade presents an update to the brief it filed in March 2004 before the Parliamentary Commission on the Quality, Accessibility, and Funding of Universities. The Board of Trade proposes that the operating deficit of Quebec universities estimated by the Conference of Rectors and Principals of Quebec Universities to be $375.3 million in 2002-2003 should be made up as follows:
The share of the government: Reinvestment
- a contribution from the Quebec government equal to that of students to make up the first half of the deficit
The share of students: Unfreezing
- increased contributions from students to make up the second half of the deficit, with part of the increased tuition fees systematically paid into the government's financial aid program to ensure accessibility to less privileged students.
The share of the business community: Increased support
- a contribution from the principal beneficiaries of the university system, such as graduates, philanthropists, companies, and business people, particularly through the coordination of financial support by targeted industrial sectors, having employers repay student loans under the 1% law, and having employers contribute to their employees' Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs), with the contributions considered a salary expense.
If we are to increase research intensity and maintain the high teaching quality vital to the reputation of our institutions, we must ensure they have the resources necessary to promote their full and healthy development. Since no one can assume this investment alone, we believe that everyone should do their part by putting their shoulder to the wheel, concluded Hudon.
The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal has some 7,000 members. Its mission is to represent the interests of the business community of Greater Montreal and to provide individuals, merchants and businesses of all sizes with a variety of specialized services to help them achieve their full potential in terms of innovation, productivity and competitiveness. The Board of Trade is the largest private organization in Quebec dedicated to economic development.
Coordinator, Media relations
Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal
Tel.: (514) 871-4000, ext. 4015
Hyperlink to the brief: www.btmm.qc.ca/FundingUniversities