A growing number of U.S. college students are finding an affordable way to study abroad that doesn't require plane tickets or learning a new language. They're making the short...

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A growing number of U.S. college students are finding an affordable way to study abroad that doesn’t require plane tickets or learning a new language. They’re making the short trek across the border to Canada.

In the past academic year, 6,000 American college students studied in Canada, according to statistics from the Canadian Embassy. That’s an increase of more than 60 percent during the past four years.


Most Seattle area high-school graduates who go to school in Canada are Vancouver-bound, said Linda Jacobs, of Linda Jacobs and Associates College Placement Services. But schools from eastern Canada draw students as well. Some major public institutions:

• UBC was ranked No. 36 in a 2004 academic list of top 500 World Universities compiled by the Institute of Higher Education, behind UW at No. 20.

• Simon Fraser University has three campuses in downtown and suburban Vancouver. With about 25,000 students, it is ranked highly each year by the Canadian magazine Maclean’s for research opportunities and range of programs.

• The University of Victoria, home to more than 18,000 students, is known for its cooperative education program. Students in all departments are required to complete an internship or volunteer stint in their field.

McGill University, almost 30,000 students, in Montreal. Considered Canada’s equivalent to the Ivy League. Its Web site boasts that McGill researchers attract more funding, publish more and are cited more often than researchers at any other Canadian university.

Local college counselors have noticed the trend. They say the favorable exchange rate makes going to school in Canada less expensive than attending many out-of-state public universities and private colleges in the United States.

“The lure of leaving the U.S. is big,” said John Blaine, with the Center for Student Success, a counseling agency with the Northwest Education Loan Association in Seattle. “And the U.S. dollar is still worth more in Canada. Everywhere else it’s kind of upside-down.”

Canadian universities generally are considered to be on a par with American universities. Once admitted to a Canadian school, American students can easily get a study permit by showing proof of enrollment and financial stability.

Getting in: In recent years, Canadian schools have started aggressively recruiting U.S. students. Recruiters from the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, spent more than 100 days in the United States last year. Of the 33,566 undergraduates enrolled last year, 349 were American.

Just as in the U.S., admission standards depend on the school. But many Canadian universities are growing and are receptive to Americans as they seek to diversify their student populations, said Kevin Cook, academic officer at the Canadian Consulate General in Seattle.

Tuition: A full year’s tuition at UBC is about $12,000 in American dollars. Simon Fraser University, also in Vancouver, costs almost $11,000, and at the University of Victoria you’ll pay about $9,500.

While it’s cheaper for Washington residents to pay UW’s $5,286 tuition, they’ll pay less at many Canadian schools than at, say, the University of California, Berkeley, which costs $16,476 a year for nonresidents.


The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (detailed descriptions of more than 90 institutions): www.aucc.ca/

The Canadian Embassy: www.canadianembassy.org/ education/index-en.asp

Maclean’s magazine ranking of Canadian universities: www.macleans.ca/ universities/index.jsp

In addition, exchange rates make some private schools in Canada more affordable than institutions like Seattle Pacific University, which runs $20,139 annually. And American students attending Canadian universities are eligible for federal Stafford loans.

Price played a large role in Seattle resident Elizabeth Shuman’s decision to enroll at UBC. Shuman, a graduate of Garfield High School, also considered attending Lewis and Clark College in Oregon and Tulane University in New Orleans. Going to Canada felt like more of an adventure, she said, as well as more affordable.

Now a sophomore, Shuman, who’s pursuing international relations with an emphasis on Spanish and Latin America, says she’s happy with her decision. While close to home, she said, the campus has an international feel.

“I’d say 25 percent of my friends are international kids,” she said. “Kids there come from such diverse backgrounds.”