While Canada has a fantastic higher education system, many Canadian students may choose to go to the United States to attend college. Of course, American colleges and universities can be prohibitively expensive, making it difficult to finance a college degree in the U.S.
With tuition costing as much as $40,000 per year at some private universities in the United States, funding can be a challenge for most students and their families. Fortunately, there are options for Canadian students who want to attend school in the U.S.
Look into scholarships & grants
As with American college students, the first place that Canadian students should look for financial aid is scholarships and grants. That is because — unlike student loans — scholarships and loans do not have to be repaid. Students can start by searching various websites for scholarship and grant opportunities for international students.
Websites such as ScholarshipsCanada.com allow interested students to search through more than 17,000 scholarships and prizes for Canadian students that are administered by schools and private organizations.
The Canadian government also provides scholarships and bursaries to students who wish to study abroad; these can be used to help finance an education in the U.S.
Many provinces also offer grants to students. For example, in Ontario, some OSAP grants and loans can be used at select international schools. You can learn more about those options and see if your desired American school qualifies here. Other provinces with education funding should likely have similar opportunities and websites where you can learn more.
Contact your school
Next, Canadian students should contact their schools directly to discuss financial aid options. Many colleges and universities provide financial aid packages to admitted students, which may include some international students.
While U.S. citizens often receive first priority for financial aid packages (which could include work study programs and grants), it is worth discussing the potential of receiving financial aid with your school’s financial aid office.
If a college or university has significant funding or is particularly eager to recruit international students, it may be more willing to provide generous financial aid packages to foreign students. If your school does offer this option, you will likely be required to submit evidence of your parent’s finances (translated into English, if necessary). The school will tend to evaluate your need for financial aid and award a package based on that need.
Consider student loans if needed
Of course, there may be situations where loans are required, particularly for students who are attending expensive private colleges and universities. In those cases, Canadian students may want to check with their government for educational loans before looking to private lenders in the United States.
The Canadian Higher Education Loan Program, or CanHelp, is an alternative loan program that Canadian students can use to pay for tuition at American colleges and universities. These loans are offered by the International Education Finance Corporation, the Bank of Boston and the Education Resources Institute. Students may also be able to obtain a loan to attend college in the U.S. through the Canadian Ministry of Skills, Training and Labour.
Canadian students are not eligible for federal student loans through the U.S. government. However, students can still apply for private student loans if they are enrolled at certain U.S. higher education institutions and have a cosigner with a good credit score who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The cosigner must also have lived in the U.S. for the previous two years as well.
The primary disadvantage of a private student loan is that this type of loan tends to have much higher interest rates than other types of loans, which can make them incredibly expensive. It can also be difficult to find a cosigner for a private student loan, as the cosigner must be willing to take on your student loan debt if you are unwilling or unable to repay it.
Some private student loan lenders do not require a U.S. co-signer; they tend to have higher interest rates than other private student loan companies, but may be an option for students who cannot otherwise obtain a cosigner for their student loans.
If you do have to take out students loans to pay for your college education, just be sure to stay on top of your payments after graduation. If you get behind, you will find yourself falling deeper and deeper into the debt hole thanks to interest. Here are some more tips on how to get out of debt.
Consider a student exchange program
Some people choose to go to the USA for a specific degree at a specific school, but for others, it’s all about the experience. If you just want to experience living and studying abroad in the USA, then you don’t have to spend all that money. You can do a student exchange program from your home university which will cost you a fraction of the price.
Student exchange programs are great because they allow you, the student, to spend a semester or a year abroad at an international partner university for the same cost as you would pay for tuition at home. Obviously, you will have extra expenses (travel, accommodation, etc.) that you may not necessarily have in Canada, but these prices sure beat $40,000 for a year!
The downside to student exchange programs is that you can’t choose any university, it has to be a partner university with the educational institution you are enrolled with here in Canada.
Managing your finances abroad
One major issue that Canadian students find when studying abroad is managing their finances. Depending on the country, you may only be allowed to work a certain amount of hours per week. Your studies may also prevent you from earning cash.
Fortunately, you can use your loans to help pay for your living expenses, but any excess funds could be sitting in your Canadian bank account. It’s likely a good idea to get a prepaid credit card such as KOHO or STACK since you can load your funds online and use them abroad. Alternatively, a credit card without foreign transaction fees can be useful.
If you’re going to be abroad for a few years, you should check with the local banks to see if they offer a package for newcomers or students. This would be necessary if you do land a job.
If you are a Canadian student looking to attend school in the United States, there are a variety of ways that you can finance your education. From scholarships specifically for Canadian students going abroad to bursaries from the government to financial aid packages from your school to Canadian loans to private loans, with a bit of hard work, you can put together a strategy to pay your tuition and expenses for your education.