HACKENSACK, N.J. – McGill University has been called “the Harvard of the North” and, indeed, the Montreal school has a reputation that ranks with the American Ivies.
Except for the price tag. The full freight at Harvard – tuition, room and board – is nearly $38,000, compared with $12,000 (U.S.) for McGill.
American enrollment in Canadian universities is up about 86 percent in the past four years to more than 5,000 students, according to the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
It’s not exactly a groundswell – the number pales compared with the 23,000 Canadians who study in the United States annually – but the word is out that there are good educational buys to be had north of the border.
“I’m very happy I made this choice,” said Sally Warner, a student from South Orange, N.J., who attends McGill. “I didn’t even apply to the Ivies because I didn’t want to shell out $40,000.”
Warner ranked second in her class and scored more than 1400 on her SATs – stats that would have put her on good footing at the best of American schools.
But McGill added up for her, in more ways than one. She loves the cosmopolitan flair of French-speaking Montreal, where housing prices are a fraction of those in the New York area. She pays about $200 U.S. a month for a share in a modern, centrally located apartment, and the drinking age is 18 in Quebec.
Because she is a Canadian citizen by virtue of her mother’s place of birth, Warner’s resident tuition at McGill is about $6,000 U.S. annually.
“It was cheaper than going to Rutgers,” she said. “And I love it.”
The increase in American students attending college in Canada is fueled, in part, by aggressive recruiting campaigns by schools such as McGill.
And, in fact, about a third of the American students in Canada are at McGill. About 1,500 of the 30,000 students at McGill are American.
The language is familiar, except at some predominantly French universities in Quebec, and student visa and entrance requirements generally aren’t too burdensome. Coursework and scheduling are similar to universities in the United States, and Canadian degrees are generally respected and portable.
“An undergraduate degree from our university is very competitive for admissions to graduate schools in the U.S.,” said Jo-Anne Brady, registrar at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario.
To be sure, Canadian recruiters are helped by the good academics that their publicly funded universities enjoy. And the relative strength of the U.S. dollar has worked in their favor when courting American families.
“It’s a great value,” said Eve Jacobs, whose daughter Rachel is a McGill graduate. “We have a kid now at Cornell, and I can’t compare it money-wise.”
Michele Papavasiliou has also turned northward in search of a “good education for the dollar.” She traveled a month ago to check out universities in Canada with her son Jesse, a high school junior.
“He is looking for a foreign experience,” said the mom. “The thing about Canada is, you can be in a foreign country and still take the bus home. … To me, it’s the best of both worlds.”
If you’re into snow, that is.
“You really have to like winter to go to school up there,” Papavasiliou said.
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