The USA and Canada are both sought after destinations for students looking to study internationally. The USA has long been a popular choice for international students although, of late, its popularity has been steadying.
Meanwhile, the popularity of international study in Canada has been on the rise. So which country really offers a better experience to international students?
This article “USA vs Canadian Universities” will help you make up your mind as we explore the pros and cons of tertiary level study in both countries.
In 2018, it was reported that there were, at that time, 1.09 million international students studying in universities in the USA. In contrast, Canada pulls in about half the amount, estimated at approximately 570,000. Institutions in the USA could, therefore, provide a more diverse campus experience to those in Canada.
There is no denying that the USA hosts some of the world’s best universities. According to the QS World University Rankings 2019, five out of the top 10 institutions in the world are in the USA. They are Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) voted number 1 in the world, Stanford University in 2nd place, Harvard University in 3rd place, California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in 4th place and the University of Chicago in 9th place. In total, there are 170 USA universities ranked among the world’s best.
Canadian universities have three entries in the top 100. The University of Toronto is Canada’s highest entry in 28th place with McGill University not far behind in 33rd. In total, there are 26 Canadian tertiary institutions ranked among the best in the world.
The USA clearly provides a broader range of options for international students and more opportunities to study at a high ranked university.
Getting A Student Visa
It is well known around the world that the visa process and requirements for the USA are time-consuming, complex and all-around complicated. Unfortunately, obtaining, and retaining, a student visa is no different. International students will experience the same scrutiny and waiting as other applicants for US visas. In contrast, the process of applying for a Canadian visa is much shorter and simpler.
Although a university degree from the USA is highly sought after, a study in the US comes with high tuition fees. Tuition fees are cheaper in Canada than in the US. Canada offers some of the most affordable tuition fees of any English speaking country to international students. Canadian fees range on average from US$7,500 to US$ 22,000, whereas fees in the USA average around US$26,000.
There is a broad range of scholarships and financial aid options available for international students in Canadian universities. Unfortunately, this does not apply for students in US universities, where such grants and scholarships are few and far between. The government offers scholarships in Canada as do individual institutions.
The USA, however, does offer graduate students opportunities for Teaching Assistantships. The pay for a Graduate Teaching Assistantship is anywhere between US$12,000 to US$31,000 depending on the university and your specific role. These Assistantships offer a good source of income to graduate students in the USA – in fact, they offer a much better financial boost than many scholarships do.
However, if you are an undergraduate in the USA, then this financial opportunity is not available to you and, instead, you will need to cover the hefty fees and living costs in another way.
Cost of Living
The cost of living is also said to be higher in the USA than in Canada. The estimated cost of living in the USA as an international student is between US$10,000 and US$12,000 per year, averaging out to US$700 to US$1,000 per month. This will, of course, depend on how well you budget and save your money and where you choose to study. These costs include accommodation, food, materials for study, travel, clothing and entertainment costs throughout the year.
In comparison, the estimated living cost for international students in Canada is said to be US$7,500. This is the amount that students must prove that they have access to when applying for a visa for study in Canada. It is worth noting, however, that the actual cost is thought to be slightly higher than this. Costs may also be higher if you are living in the larger, more expensive cities, such as Montreal or Vancouver.
The expensive private healthcare system in the USA is well known around the world, and this also applies to international students looking to study there. Foreign students in the US must apply for health insurance, and often high premiums need to be paid. Contrastingly, Canada offers a universal healthcare system.
In many provinces, temporary residents, such as international students, will be provided with free healthcare. In provinces where this does not apply, students are able to join their school of study’s insurance plan or seek affordable private healthcare options.
Employment After Graduation
Canada is very welcoming to international students and has been looking to increase the population of international students in its institutions. One way to achieve this has been to provide more opportunities for students to seek employment after graduation and, eventually, gain permanent residence.
In fact, the Canadian International Education Bureau stated that over half of all international students in Canada eventually sought permanent residence in the years after their study there.
Canada allows international students to work there for a maximum period of three years after graduation through a programme called the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). This not only helps the students to find work in Canada but opens a pathway to permanent residency, which can later lead to full citizenship.
The USA, however, particularly since Trump stepped into the office, has made a less welcoming opportunity for international students. Foreign students in the USA are not granted permission to work after graduation unless the student has received sponsorship from a company/organisation.
In addition, the view of the current administration in the USA towards foreigners is highly negative and could be a reason for the recent decline in students seeking university education in the USA.