MONTREAL - The Quebec government has quietly adopted several controversial measures it says will broaden access to higher education in the province.

Student groups, however, contend the measures will have the opposite effect and actually increase student debt loads.

The policies were first announced during the spring amid a dramatic showdown with university and college students fighting tuition hikes. It was hoped they would lessen tensions in a months-long protest that had, at times, turned violent.

Student associations criticized the proposals when they were first announced, saying they did little to address their concerns about rising student debt.

But the government pushed ahead with its plans to draw the hike out over seven years, instead of five. It will also increase funding for loans and bursaries.

The office of Education Minister Michelle Courchesne issued a news release on Thursday that said the measures were formally adopted by cabinet earlier in the week.

That allows them to be in place by the time university students return to class in September.

"It is very important for the Quebec government to maintain accessibility to the university system, as much for middle-class students as for those with lower incomes," Courchesne said in the statement.

"The government, therefore, acted quickly to make the financial aid announced last April available as of this fall."

A number of proposals made during the spring to defuse the conflict will now become official government policy:

— The tuition hike will now amount to annual raises of $254 for seven years. Initially it had been slated to be $325 over five years.

— More families will become eligible for loans and bursaries.

— And students will be able to repay loans in proportion to their income after graduation.

Quebec student groups are suspicious of the moves, which come amid speculation of an election sometime in early September.

The new measures stem from a report by a legislative body tasked with studying education issues. The report, which examined what impact the government's proposals would have on accessibility, was not released.

Martine Desjardins, who heads one of the largest striking student associations, believes it may have concluded the government's measures would actually reduce accessibility, not increase it.

"The government seems to have paved the way with a news release before the report is even made public," she said.

"It leads us to believe... that on the eve of an election campaign they're trying to calm things down."

Desjardins argued that the Liberal government's approach is unbalanced. With more money set aside for loans than bursaries, she said students will only see their debt levels rise.

She also said experiments with proportional repayment schemes in other countries have been problematic.

In Australia, she said, the debt load of lower-income students rose more quickly than debt levels for higher-income students.

She reiterated earlier statements by her fellow student leaders about the proposals, and accused the government of ignoring the central issue of the strike: student debt.

"Not only does it not address the problem, it avoids it completely," Desjardins said.

Nightly demonstrations against the tuition hikes have continued in Montreal but are much smaller than the ones in the spring.

Earlier on HuffPost:

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  • Student protesters stage a sit-in as pol

    Student protesters stage a sit-in as police in riot gear block off street access to the International Economic Forum of the Americas, an annual global summit that has drawn more than 3,000 participants from a dozen countries, in Montreal on June 11, 2012. For four months, students, joined by anti-capitalists, have held protests against plans by the Quebec provincial government to increase tuition fees by 75 percent. The forum is being held June 11-14. AFP PHOTO/ROGERIO BARBOSA (Photo credit should read ROGERIO BARBOSA/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Protesters face police in riot gear bloc

    Protesters face police in riot gear blocking off street access to the International Economic Forum of the Americas, an annual global summit that has drawn more than 3,000 participants from a dozen countries, in Montreal on June 11, 2012. For four months, students, joined by anti-capitalists, have held protests against plans by the Quebec provincial government to increase tuition fees by 75 percent. The forum is being held June 11-14. AFP PHOTO/ROGERIO BARBOSA (Photo credit should read ROGERIO BARBOSA/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Student protesters face police in riot g

    Student protesters face police in riot gear blocking off street access to the International Economic Forum of the Americas, an annual global summit that has drawn more than 3,000 participants from a dozen countries, in Montreal on June 11, 2012. For four months, students, joined by anti-capitalists, have held protests against plans by the Quebec provincial government to increase tuition fees by 75 percent. The forum is being held June 11-14. AFP PHOTO/ROGERIO BARBOSA (Photo credit should read ROGERIO BARBOSA/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Student protesters face police in riot g

    Student protesters face police in riot gear blocking off street access to the International Economic Forum of the Americas, an annual global summit that has drawn more than 3,000 participants from a dozen countries, in Montreal on June 11, 2012. For four months, students, joined by anti-capitalists, have held protests against plans by the Quebec provincial government to increase tuition fees by 75 percent. The forum is being held June 11-14. AFP PHOTO/ROGERIO BARBOSA (Photo credit should read ROGERIO BARBOSA/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Police use pepper spray and fight with protesters during an arrest on St. Catharines Street near the Montreal Grand Prix festival area Sunday, June 10, 2012, in Montreal. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Peter McCabe)

  • Demonstrators hold a sign displaying concern about sexual exploitation during a march protesting the Canadian Grand Prix auto race in Montreal, Saturday, June 9, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Peter McCabe)

  • A protester confronts police as he and others tried to enter the Grand Prix festival area of Montreal Friday, June 8, 2012. The protesters clashed briefly with the police and there were two arrests. Participants were trying to call attention to pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain -- and they criticized the racing circuit's role in that country. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Peter McCabe)

  • A protester confronts police as he and others tried to enter the Grand Prix festival area of Montreal Friday, June 8, 2012. The protesters clashed briefly with the police and there were two arrests. Participants were trying to call attention to pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain -- and they criticized the racing circuit's role in that country. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Peter McCabe)

  • Police arrest a demonstrator trying to disrupt the opening gala at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal on Thursday, June 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Ryan Remiorz, The Canadian Press)

  • Guests walk past riot police as they arrive the opening gala for the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix, which protesters tried to disrupt, in Montreal on Thursday, June 7, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz)

  • Police talk to a demonstrator as they take another, right, into custody before a cocktail party kicking off the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix festivities in Montreal, Canada, on Thursday, June 7, 2012. About 20 people were arrested and police said they confiscated light bulbs filled with paint. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

  • Police officers run toward demonstrators before a cocktail party kicking off the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix festivities in Montreal, Canada, on Thursday, June 7, 2012. About 20 people were arrested and police said they confiscated light bulbs filled with paint. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

  • Protesters march in the rain through the streets of Montreal to protest against bill 78 on Saturday, June 2, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Peter McCabe)

  • Protesters march in the streets of Montreal to demonstrate against tuition hikes and Quebec's Bill 78 aimed at controlling student demonstrations Wednesday, May 30, 2012 in Montreal. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

  • Protesters march in the streets of Montreal to demonstrate against tuition hikes and Quebec's Bill 78 aimed at controlling student demonstrations Wednesday, May 30, 2012 in Montreal. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

  • Demonstrators march down a street to protest against tuition hikes and Quebec's Bill 78 aimed at control student demonstrations on Tuesday, May 29, 2012, in Montreal. College and university students from Quebec and the provincial government returned to the bargaining table Tuesday for a second day of talks in an attempt to end a sometimes violent months-long dispute over tuition hikes. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

  • Demonstrators march down a street to protest against tuition hikes and Quebec's Bill 78 aimed at control student demonstrations on Tuesday, May 29, 2012, in Montreal. College and university students from Quebec and the provincial government returned to the bargaining table Tuesday for a second day of talks in an attempt to end a sometimes violent months-long dispute over tuition hikes. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

  • A lawyer addresses students following a march of hundreds of lawyers in the streets of Montreal to protest against Quebec's Bill 78 aimed at controlling student demonstrations Monday, May 28, 2012 in Montreal. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

  • Hundreds of lawyers march in the streets of Montreal to protest against Quebec's Bill 78 aimed at control student demonstrations Monday, May 28, 2012 in Montreal. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

  • Police keep watch as hundreds of lawyers march in the streets of Montreal to protest against Quebec's Bill 78 aimed at control student demonstrations Monday, May 28, 2012 in Montreal. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

  • Student protesters stage a sit-in as pol

    Student protesters stage a sit-in as police in riot gear block off street access to the International Economic Forum of the Americas, an annual global summit that has drawn more than 3,000 participants from a dozen countries, in Montreal on June 11, 2012. For four months, students, joined by anti-capitalists, have held protests against plans by the Quebec provincial government to increase tuition fees by 75 percent. The forum is being held June 11-14. AFP PHOTO/ROGERIO BARBOSA (Photo credit should read ROGERIO BARBOSA/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Demonstrators march down a street to protest against tuition hikes and Quebec's Bill 78 aimed at control student demonstrations on Tuesday, May 29, 2012, in Montreal. College and university students from Quebec and the provincial government returned to the bargaining table Tuesday for a second day of talks in an attempt to end a sometimes violent months-long dispute over tuition hikes. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

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