Eastern Canada, Main Destination for International Students

British Passport, Canada, Thailand

British Passport, Canada, Thailand (Photo credit: dcgreer)

Maclean’s Magazine’s newly released 2013 university rankings reveal a very interesting picture of international students in Canada. Data (collected in 2011, on first year populations) indicate that universities in Central and Eastern Canada attract a majority of international students. Some highlights are relevant:

Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada have the largest number of universities where international students make up more than 5% of the student populations (8 universities in Ontario, 7 in Quebec and 10 in Atlantic Canada).

The highest concentration of international students is in Ontario and Quebec, given the overall size of the student population at many of the two provinces’ universities. Both Ontario and Quebec have some of the largest post-secondary institutions in Canada – significantly larger than universities in Atlantic Canada.

McGill, Montreal, Laval, Concordia (in Quebec), Toronto and Waterloo (in Ontario) are some of the largest universities in Canada that have over 10% international student populations.

The University of Toronto has 16.3% international students, out of a total of 71,000 full-time and 8,000 part-time students. While having a smaller student population (30,000 full-time and 6,000 part-time students), McGill has the largest percentage of students from outside Canada (21.3%) among the country’s big universities. (McGill also holds the first place in Maclean’s 2013 national reputational ranking).

In British Columbia (BC) and the Prairies, three post-secondary institutions – Simon Fraser, the University of British Columbia and the University of Alberta – are also relatively large universities where students from outside Canada constitute over 10% of their student populations.

There are however five relatively large universities in the Prairies and Ontario that have disappointingly low percentages of students from outside Canada. Calgary and Manitoba (in the Prairies) have only 4% international students among their student populations. At Queen’s and Ryerson (in Ontario) international students make up 3% of each university’s 20,000+ full-time students (3,500 part-time students at Queen’s and 14,500 part-time students at Ryerson).

The University of Ottawa (Ontario), with its sizable student population of 33,000 full-time students and 7,500 part-time students, has an inconsequential 1.9% level of international students.

A recent blog post here highlights why post-secondary institutions and governments at all levels across Canada are monitoring closely these figures and proposing strategies to attract more international students. They see this as a win-win situation: universities and Canadian cities benefit from an influx of qualified and talented individuals – who also sustain and create jobs locally – while the students can later pursue their careers and life goals in this country.

The Cost of Education – No. 1 Source of Stress for Canadian Students: BMO

Bank of Montreal

Bank of Montreal (Photo credit: PhotoMimir)

Paying for school is rated as the #1 source of stress by Canadian post-secondary students, according to a survey conducted by BMO Bank of Montreal and Pollara in the summer of 2012. More than a quarter of the students surveyed (27 per cent) indicated they were very stressed about finances. By comparison, 22 per cent of students said they were stressed about finding a job after graduation, and 20 per cent about their academic achievements. Citing Government of Canada studies, BMO indicates that “the total cost for post-secondary education […] including tuition, school supplies, housing and other expenses, amounts to $14,500 a year, or nearly $60,000 for a four-year program.” 

A 2011 survey by BMO and Leger Marketing also found that a majority of Canadians – students (54 per cent) and parents (65 per cent) – agreed that the cost for post-secondary education should be split between parents and kids. Over half of the parents surveyed saw as their responsibility to cover between a quarter and half of their children’ post-secondary education. 43 per cent of students agreed with this position.

Fifty-one per cent of parents said they were prepared to go into debt to fund their children’s education, while 40 per cent were not. “Attending university or college is a hefty investment, so it’s essential that students and parents are on the same page when it comes to funding a post-secondary education,” said Su McVey, BMO Vice President, in September 2011.

The 2012 BMO survey found that one third (32 per cent) of the students thought they would have significant trouble paying their bills while at school. Almost half (49 per cent) use loans to help cover their expenses during post-secondary education.

Of those using loans, 58 per cent expect to graduate with more than $20,000 in debt, while 21 per cent expect to owe twice as much, according to the 2012 BMO study. Students in Atlantic Canada expect to accumulate the most debt and take the longest to repay it. The study doesn’t include information on international students in Canada.

Citing the Canadian Federation of Students and the Canada Student Loan Program, BMO indicates that “the average student debt is almost $27,000 and […] most students take nearly 10 years to pay off their loans – with some taking the maximum 14.5 years.” Lily Capriotti, BMO Vice President, pointed out that “students often underestimate the amount of debt they will accumulate or the length of time it will take to pay it off.”

While some students may ask themselves if loans are worth the trouble – or if it’s rather preferable to get a job or become an entrepreneur right after graduating high school – in most cases the money spent will yield a good return on investment. Also, from a non-financial perspective a university education is one of those key things that form an adult person and give them the confidence they need to succeed in life. Of course, most of us want to pay less for valuable things, but at the end of the day – as the saying goes – there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

For more information on university tuition in Canada click here.