02/10/2013 03:50 EST | Updated 04/12/2013 05:12 EDT

PQ votes in favour of reducing student debt

Parti Québécois national council members have voted in favour of reducing student debt without necessarily making a promise to freeze tuition fees.

The motion tabled by the PQ's youth wing at the party's national council meeting in Drummondville asked that the government "defend a tuition freeze or any other options that will lead to a reduction of student debt and maintain accessibility to post-secondary education."

Friday, the president of the party's youth wing, Frédéric Saint-Jean, suggested that tuition fees should be frozen and gradually reduced until they are abolished.

Higher Education Minister Pierre Duchesne turned down the suggestion, saying it was not a viable option for the province.

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois said she met with the youth wing and compromised on the demands.

"What we want is to increase accessibility and reduce student debt. [The revised motion] gives us latitude to reach these objectives," she said.

During a news conference at the end of the national council meeting, Marois said her government would also be taking a look at other fees linked to post-secondary education.

Duchesne said he was satisfied with the motion because it does not commit the government to a tuition freeze but allows it to look at any option that will help alleviate student debt.

The premier said she would welcome several scenarios to lighten student debt during the province's higher education summit on Feb. 25 and 26.

"Pierre Duchesne and I agreed to discuss free tuition with the [student groups]," she said. "There are people who want to debate and explain why they think it's possible to have free tuition. We won't prevent that from happening. Some others want increases in tuition. We will discuss that too," she said.

Marois also said her government is ready to discuss a tuition freeze.

She said, in her opinion, indexing tuition fees to the cost of living is equivalent to freezing post-secondary education fees.

ASSÉ agrees to meet with Marois

The ASSÉ, an umbrella group representing several post-secondary student unions, said it has accepted Marois' invitation to meet ahead of the education summit.

The premier and Duchesne met with the college and university student federations last Monday.

Earlier this week, the more militant ASSÉ threatened to boycott the summit if the government refused to discuss free tuition.