01/28/2013 11:12 EST | Updated 03/30/2013 05:12 EDT

Quebec's higher education minister rejects calls for free tuition

One month before the start of province's post-secondary education summit, Quebec's higher education minister is rejecting calls for free university tuition.

Pierre Duchesne said several good ideas came up during the dozen meetings with students and university administrators organized by the Parti Québécois since its election in September.

But, he said free tuition is not an option for the Quebec government, which has been looking instead at indexing education fees to the cost of living.

"The good thing about this possibility is that there are different indexation models, some of which resemble a freeze, others which are indexed based on certain indicators," said Duchesne.

The minister promised to come up with concrete solutions to reform tuition fees.

"Don't worry about it," he said. "After the summit, decisions will be made, there will be work started and law projects tabled."

Student groups disappointed

Martine Desjardins, the president of Quebec's university student federation (FEUQ) said several people who were invited to the summit disagree with the PQ's stance.

"The consensus is clearly not around indexation," she said. "Even at the summit table with all of the people involved in the university milieu, we don't hear the word 'indexation' except when it comes from the government."

The ASSÉ, an umbrella group representing some more militant student associations, said it was disappointed by the minister's decision to nix free tuition.

Jérémie Bédard-Wien, the group's spokesman, said the minister is dismissing the people who fought against the tuition hike since last spring's student crisis.

The ASSÉ will be holding a meeting in Saint-Félicien this weekend to decide whether its representatives will attend the summit.

The group has been debating its participation since the government announced its plans to hold the meeting.

The post-secondary education summit will take place on Feb. 25 and 26.