Quebec Premier Jean Charest Education Minister Line Beauchamp, speak on April 27, 2012.
Credits: SIMON CLARK/JOURNAL DE QUEBEC/QMI AGENCY
MONTREAL -- The Quebec government announced Friday it will spread its tuition increase over seven years instead of five in a bid to end months of violent student protests.
However, student leaders reacted negatively to the offer and another protest is scheduled in downtown Montreal Friday night.
Students will be expected to pay $1,778 over seven years as opposed to $1,625 over five years as originally planned, Quebec Premier Jean Charest said Friday in Quebec City.
Charest said the government will also add another $39 million for bursaries and said 50,000 students will have access to higher loans. The measures are in addition to several proposals the government had previously made, such as allowing students to repay loans based on their income once they graduate.
Charest repeated several times at the press conference that the increased financing will not be borne by taxpayers but will come out of the existing provincial budget.
Spokespeople for the three federations representing the roughly 170,000 striking students told QMI Agency that the offer doesn't respond to student demands.
"It would shock me to have students who were in the streets denouncing the increase to go back to school when the offer is to increase tuition even more," said federation spokeswoman Martine Desjardins.
Student leaders say the average Quebec student graduates with over $15,000 in debt, which is creating a significant barrier to education. Desjardins said the latest offer by the provincial government doesn't do much to address the issue of debt and accessibility.
Some students denounced the offer before the premier had finished making it.
A Facebook group called "Protest: it's not an offer, it's an insult!" called for students to return to the streets of downtown Montreal on Friday night. By 4 p.m. Friday, more 3,000 people said they would attend the protest.
Student leaders told QMI that individual schools will vote on the offer, and an official response from the three federations will likely only come next week.
Friday's offer came as the government had been facing increased pressure to reach a deal with striking students. There have been over 160 protests in 74 days in Montreal alone. Most protests have been peaceful, but of late, some have been violent. Eighty-five people were arrested on Wednesday night after protesters clashed with police. Thursday night's protest was attended by over 2,000 people and was largely peaceful.