Between 1994 and 2007, the Canadian Province of Quebec kept tuition at its public universities stable, access robust, and educational quality high.

In 2007 that tuition freeze was lifted, and a plan to hike tuition $50 a semester, every semester, for five years was implemented. That five-year period expires in 2012, and students are now bracing to oppose a dramatically more punitive tuition scheme. Union university workers, understanding that tuition increases typically go hand-in-hand with budget cuts, are joining them.

Tuition increases ranging from 50% to 135% have been proposed by various parties, as students put officials on notice that they will not accept such actions quietly. Thousands of students protested outside a summit on education funding last week, while tens of thousands more staged a one-day strike. Nearly two dozen student bodies have approved strike plans going forward.

As student activist Adrian Kaats wrote this week, “2011 is going to be one of the most interesting years in Quebec politics … in quite some time,” and students and campus unions are going to be in the thick of it.

I recently visited some of Quebec’s student activists, and came away mightily impressed. — I’ll definitely have much more on this story in the new year. Stay tuned.