studying in canada

Are Universities in Canada Worth it?

So you want to study in Canada, eh? You’re not alone. Many U.S. high school students are including at least one Canadian university among their list of prospective colleges. In 2014, the Canadian government formally created an international education strategy to attract more international students, and for a U.S. student wishing to head north, this is most excellent news! Here’s why:

Potentially lower costs: While it is difficult to generalize, studying in Canada costs less than attending college in the U.S. Tuition and fees are governed by each province so there are actually limits on increases each year, which will help families plan for the big picture. Total costs of attendance will likely fall between $23,000 (US) on the low end to approximately $37,000 (US) on the high end.

Get a job: Some students might feel dissuaded from going north because they want to get some work experience during their college years. But it is possible to work while you study in Canada! Students are permitted to work 20 hours a week on or off-campus and full time during vacation periods. Working is an excellent way to earn money for indirect expenses, with the added benefits of gaining real work experience, budgeting skills, exposure to career mentors and so much more.

Show me the money: Students with a strong academic profile are eligible to pursue scholarships in Canada. Most entrance scholarships are based on academic merit (measured by GPA). Each school’s website will be your best resource for scholarships of this variety. There may also be other types of tuition discounts for U.S. students from contiguous neighboring states. Finally, U.S. students can look for outside or private scholarships. The same rules apply in the U.S. and Canada when looking for scholarships – start early and search often. A great place to start your scholarship search is www.scholarships.gc.ga

What about my 529 College Savings Plan? Federal grants and loans?  Some monies will be eligible for use in Canada while others may not. If a Canadian school is listed on www.ifap.ed.gov as an eligible institution, 529 monies may be used to cover any qualified education expenses (tuition, fees, room, board, books, and supplies that are mandatory). Students who complete the FAFSA may also borrow from the U.S. Direct Loan program. Students will need to confirm with the school if it participates in the PLUS program.  International schools do not participate in the Pell Grant program.

Final Thoughts: Try to nail down any indirect and variable costs early. Examples of variable expenses include flights, health insurance, travel insurance, how you pay the college, extra fees from currency exchange shortfalls, and wire transfer fees. Once you have a good sense of all the costs—published and indirect—associated with attending school north of the border, you can start to look more deeply into institutional offerings and how those compare to U.S. institutions, relative to the cost of attendance. Happy hunting!

For more information on the Canadian college admissions process, listen to the Getting In: A College Coach Conversation episode on this topic: Oh Canada! Attending and Paying for College North of the Border.



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Written by Robyn Stewart
Robyn Stewart is a member of College Coach’s team of college finance experts. Prior to joining College Coach, she worked as a former financial aid officer at College of the Holy Cross.