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Saturday, August 17, 2013

How Québec students are the luckiest in Canada

If you look at a table of tuition fees for universities in Canada, whether online or in university-ranking magazine articles, you will often see that Québec university tuition fees are much lower (about half) that of other provinces.  Let’s all go to McGill!  Wait though! There’s a catch: these fees are fees for Québec residents (residents before they go to university).  So if you are lucky to have been born in Québec, or have moved there early enough to go to high school there, you may be able to enjoy these very low tuition fees.  But the good news does not end there:
In Québec, the full honours degree is only 3 years because the second year of CEGEP (a college program mandatory for Québec students to complete after high school to be admitted to university) ‘counts’ as the freshman or first year of a 4 year degree (CEGEP is free).  This is a bit difficult to understand for people from outside Québec; look at the table below to see it more clearly.

Canada except Québec
K – grade 6
Grades 7-8
Elementary or middle school
High school 1 and 2
Grades 9-11
High school
High school 3 to 5
Grade 12
High school
1st year CEGEP  (free tuition)
Freshman/1st year university
2nd year CEGEP (free tuition)
2nd -4th  years university
University (at low tuition)

 So students in Québec graduate from high school after grade 11 (with the usual prom and such), and then to go college (CEGEP stands for Collège d’Études Générales et Professionelles) which has free tuition as long as the student is studying full-time, and then go to university but directly into 2nd year, which shaves one year of tuition-paying education.  CEGEP, as its name indicates, also provides professional training, such as a college outside of Québec does.  For example, it offers 3 year programs in architecture technology; radio communication; computer science technology; etc.  The tuition is ALSO FREE (there are other fees though such as equipment,
Finally, the Québec culture encourages students to live at home during post-secondary studies.  Only very rich families or the ones without a university nearby send their children away to university.  My family had enough money to pay for my tuition fees, but had never saved for me living close to campus – all my friends commuted from home (I was in the suburbs of Montréal, not even in greater Montréal) until they graduated.  Yes, our university experience was different than if we had lived on campus, but it was not better or less good; it was just that, different.

The lucky Québec students have three reasons to be grateful: cheaper tuition; a shorter degree; no culture of living on campus.  La Belle Province has a good reason to smile!

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