O Canada! American Students Are Flocking to the True North, Strong and Cheap

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Libby MacCarthy
had never been to Canada when she applied to Dalhousie University
at the suggestion of a friend. After a campus visit during a cold
snap in April, the Maine native was still undecided about the merits
of a Canadian education.

But when the
offer from her top U.S. choice arrived without a promise of financial
aid, the annual $25,000 (U.S.) difference in cost made up her mind.

universities are like hidden gems," said the 21-year-old, who
starts her fourth year in Halifax in September. "A lot of them
are Ivy League-quality schools and they are just a lot less expensive."

At a time when
many U.S families are finding they have fewer dollars than they
expected to spend on higher education, the price of a Canadian undergraduate
degree is looking attractive.

That feeling
is being fuelled by increased marketing from the Canadian government
and more interest by Canadian schools, drawn to the American market
as a way to maintain enrolment, attract more tuition dollars and
give their campus a more international outlook.

Signs of that
push are showing up this spring. Many schools say their U.S. applications
are up, and so is the number of students saying yes to offers.

"The U.S.
is one of our target areas, no question," said Asa Kachan,
the registrar at Dalhousie, where applications from American students
are up 14 per cent this year.

In a province
with 11 universities and a declining high-school population, Ms.
Kachan says attracting foreign students is vital. The school does
that by tapping into networks of U.S. guidance counsellors and sending
staff to key high schools. Foreign students account for 8 per cent
of enrolment, but Dalhousie wants to raise that to 10 or 12 per

Across the
country, about 9,000 Americans studied at Canadian universities
and colleges this year, up from 2,300 just 12 years ago, according
to Canada’s embassy in Washington. On the flipside, an estimated
29,000 Canadians headed south in 2007–2008 for undergraduate
or graduate studies, a reflection of the size of the American system.

At Montreal’s
McGill University, where there is a long tradition of U.S. recruiting,
Americans accounted for 12 per cent of this year’s freshman class.
Application numbers this spring are even with previous years, but
acceptance rates are up 4 per cent.

McGill has
seen a steady increase in American students, with numbers rising
by 22 per cent in the past five years. Senior administrators say
name recognition and recruiting efforts have contributed to that
rise, but add cost is a factor.

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20, 2009

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