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Canada's colleges attract U.S. students

Associated Press
Friday, October 4 – Online Edition, Posted at 2:51 AM EST

Attracted by relatively low tuition costs, high academic standards and campuses set in urban centers and spectacular countryside, a small but fast-growing number of American students are choosing to spend their college days in a foreign country - Canada.

The Canadian Embassy in Washington estimates that enrollment at major Canadian schools by U.S. citizens has risen by at least 86 percent over the past three years, to about 5,000 students.

“I absolutely love it here,” said Amorette Howland, a senior at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, a community of 3,800 people about an hour's drive from the provincial capital of Halifax.

A 13-hour journey from home in Enfield, Conn., Ms. Howland was attracted by the small-town feel of Wolfville - and when she learned that tuition included a new IBM laptop computer.

Her parents were more impressed by Acadia's academic standards; a minimum combined math and verbal SAT score of 1,100 is required for American students seeking admission. (There is no equivalent college entrance exam for Canadian high school students, who are judged for admissions based on grade point averages.)

Montreal's McGill University has lured nearly 1,600 Americans north of the border, including sophomore Patrick Cournoyer, who picked it over the University of Vermont and Cornell University.

McGill's international student tuition fee is $7,000 (U.S.) per year in U.S. dollars. With room and board, McGill officials estimate a student from the states can attend school in Montreal for a total of $12,000 annually.

“Financially, it wasn't anything to even think about,” Mr. Cournoyer said. “It's so exorbitant the amount of money you pay to go to an American school.”

U.S. Department of Education statistics show the average tuition, room and board paid in 2000-2001 by in-state undergraduates attending public schools in the United States was $8,655. Tuition, room and board at private colleges and universities ran to $21,997, making McGill a relative bargain for someone looking for a private education - a point the school's international recruiters stress to high school seniors in the United States.

The president of the American Council on Education, David Ward, called the influx of stateside students in Canada beneficial to schools on both sides of the border.

“At the department level, not at the university level, it's probably creating some healthy competition. Whether it's physics or history or English, it's creating a situation here where the good departments are just going to have to be a bit more competitive,” Mr. Ward said.

Like McGill, other Canadian schools such as the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia also have expanded recruiting efforts in the United States.

“I think we, being Canadian, haven't blown our own whistles as much as we might have,” said Florence Silver, director of student recruitment at Toronto, which currently has 229 U.S. students enrolled, up from 141 last year.

When the director of the International Student Initiative at the University of British Columbia hits the recruiting trail, his sales pitch extends beyond the bargain tuition and living costs.

Noting his office has a mountain view, broken on occasion by the sight of a bald eagle in flight, Don Wehrung also sells Vancouver as a foreign education destination.

“We attract people who want the international experience but who aren't real adventuresome,” he said. “Canada is a way to get international experience with the comfort level of English as the primary language as well as common foods and standards in accommodations.”

Canadian officials also maintain academic integrity hasn't been sacrificed for inexpensive tuition, which is made possible by national government subsidies. American students, for instance, need a 1,240 combined score on the SAT to meet McGill's admission standards and a 1,200 SAT score at Toronto.

Though completely satisfied with the quality of her education, Ms. Howland still plans to head back to the United States after graduation next spring.

“The people are great and the campus is beautiful,” she said, ``but I'm ready to go home, go to graduate school and live in a city.”



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