Migrating northward

U.S. students are flocking to Canadian campuses

Andrew Jesmain said lower tuition fees and the international experience drew him to Queen’s.
Andrew Jesmain said lower tuition fees and the international experience drew him to Queen’s.

Andrew Jesmain is an international student from Manlius, New York, who came to Queen’s almost by fluke.

“I came to Queen’s because a lot of my family was at U of T, but it was too big,” the ArtSci ’07 said. “Queen’s was a better fit, and we happened to pass it on the way home.”

Jesmain said cost was an important factor when he was choosing universities.

“Even to pay international fees, which are three times more than Canadian students pay, it’s still half or less than what American students pay,” he said. “It’s a huge cost benefit.” Jesmain added that going to a Canadian university can be an interesting thing to have on a resumé.

“You spend four years in a different country,” he said. “It’s not that different from the States, but it’s still different. There are little differences [between American and Canadian universities] but overall, the quality of education is as good or better than the States.” Right now, more than 8,000 American students are studying at Canadian institutions.

Despite paying about $15,584.30 for one year’s tuition in an Arts and Science degree, compared with $5,176.30 for domestic students, statistics released from the University have shown a steady increase in American students coming to Queen’s over the past five years.

In 2001, there were 79 Americans in the incoming group of first-year students. In 2002, the number rose to 97 and then to 120 in 2003. The number has since grown from 130 in 2004 to 132 in 2005.

The statistics record the number of international students who are at Queen’s with a student visa and who aren’t Canadian citizens or landed immigrants.

Sociology professor Cynthia Levine-Rasky said an important factor in the trend of American students northward is a practical one: Canadian tuition fees are significantly more affordable than American fees.

“Canada still provides a competitive kind of credential and experience at an affordable price,” she said. “It may be that university students or applicants … look to Queen’s as a recognizable and prestigious place to go to school.” Levine-Rasky said student debt can be an enormous burden for middle-income families, and that these high fees put universities out of reach for lower-income families.

“I don’t think we can underestimate the cost factor. There’s a lot of pressure on young people to obtain credentials and qualifications— the more education, the better,” she said.  “It’s harder to get into grad school, and now an MA is a good thing to have. Where are you going to go for four or six years and come out with a debt that won’t burden you for the next 30 years?” She said Canada also has a variety of schools and programs.

“If they’re after a very large urban university, we have U of T. We’ve got smaller undergrad-focused universities and also [there’s the] benefit of living in Canada. We’ve got more going for us than we care to give ourselves credit for.

“I was told that at the International Centre, people go in there expecting to see students from developing countries and overseas … a good number are American. It’s affecting what an international student is and needs.” The Globe and Mail recently reported that U.S. enrolment in Canadian post-secondary education has jumped 220 per cent since 1997.

Justin Smith, ArtSci ’07, is an international student from Westchester, New York.

Smith said American students are looking at tuition in the range of US $40,000 a year.

“A bachelor’s degree is pretty much like high school now, so you can’t justify spending that much money on a degree that’s so popular,” Smith said. “Even though they don’t get the same rates as domestic students, [the fees] are honestly 100 per cent lower than the U.S.”  Another draw of Canadian universities is the quality of education versus the typical admission standards, he said.

“Queen’s has an amazing reputation. [It offers] high-class academics with amazing profs and it’s a rigorous academic rubric, when you look at it,” he said. “It compares with the likes of a lot of Ivy League schools.” Smith said that while admission standards at schools like Harvard and Yale are almost impossible to satisfy, Queen’s offers the same kind of academic rigour but is a little easier to get into.

“Because [Canadian universities] are a little less well-known in the States, you can crack the admission standards,” he said.

Another reason why Americans are drawn to Queen’s is because they see it as an opportunity to study abroad without entirely sacrificing the idea of home, Smith said.   “They look to places like Queen’s and UBC and Western and have decided that this is really worth it,” he said. “These are very good universities with a good price tag.”

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