When it came time for university, Gabe Lacroix of Fredericton was drawn to Montreal for the city's unique culture and the opportunity to improve his French.
He's two years into an electrical engineering degree at McGill and said he's had a great time so far.
But if he was choosing a school now, he might not have ended up in Quebec.
That's because the Quebec government announced earlier this month that tuition for out-of-province students will nearly double, starting next fall.
Quebec universities, such as McGill, will now charge out-of-province students nearly double in tuition following a move by the provincial government to stop subsidizing students from outside Quebec. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)
The minimum cost for out-of-province students to study in Quebec is currently set at $8,992. With the change, it will go up to about $17,000, said Pascale Déry, the province's minister of higher education.
"If I put myself in the position of someone applying to schools this year, I would definitely have it lower on my list now," said Lacroix.
He said Quebec has made a mistake.
"Because if they want to have more French-speaking students and enrich the French language in the province, it won't end up attracting out-of-province talent that can speak French," he said.
He added that Anglophone students who are eager to learn French won't have that opportunity now, either.
"They won't feel that it's an option to go to Bishop's or McGill or Concordia."
Lacroix said he thinks students who can afford it will still apply to Quebec universities, but the numbers will go down.
Ryan Sullivan, an enrolment officer at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, said he's already heard of local students changing their minds about applying to schools in Quebec. (Submitted by Ryan Sullivan)
The Quebec government has framed the decision as a move to stop subsidizing students from the rest of Canada who come to Quebec's English-language universities. The money from the fee increases will go to the provincial government to fund its French-language universities.
Lacroix thinks there should be an exception to the rule for New Brunswick students since the province is bilingual.
"They definitely want to attract that type of student from New Brunswick, or any part of the country that has bilingual students or French-speaking students, because they know they're a lot more likely to stay here," he said, adding he hopes to remain in Quebec after graduation.
"I'd be glad to stay if I get something," Lacroix said,
N.B. universities gain advantage, says STU
Quebec's move is already being felt in New Brunswick.
At last weekend's open house at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, Ryan Sullivan, vice-president of enrolment, said he spoke with the parent of a high school student from northern New Brunswick.
The woman said her daughter had planned to apply to McGill, but after the announcement decided to stay in New Brunswick for university, he said.
Sullivan said time will tell of the impact on St. Thomas, "but we're seeing early anecdotal signs that students who otherwise were thinking about going to Quebec and are now rethinking those options."
Lloyd Henderson, a recruitment and enrolment officer at UNB, said he doesn't think the Quebec change will have a major impact on UNB, but hopes more local students will consider staying. (Submitted by Lloyd Henderson)
He said that finances are a major part of a student's decision.
At St. Thomas, tuition for a bachelor of education this year is $8,300. Sullivan said the university has put more focus on bursaries and scholarships in recent years to make St. Thomas more accessible.
"This to me is something that all provinces should be considering when they're making these types of decisions … paramount should be accessibility and mobility for students to travel and study where they want to in the country," Sullivan said.
At the University of New Brunswick, Lloyd Henderson, associate vice-president of recruitment and enrolment, agrees that cost is a major factor in university choice, but specific programs and admissions requirements also matter.
"I don't know if this is going to have a dramatic impact on us here in New Brunswick or at UNB," Henderson said.
He said more than half of the university's students are from within the province.
But as for those students who might be disappointed by the new price tag in Quebec, Henderson hopes they'll put renewed focus on UNB.
"For those that will have to make a choice on whether they can afford that or that's the right solution for them, we're hoping that UNB will be high on their list of options," Henderson said.