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Education Across the Border: A Comparison of Canada and USA

Canada and the United States are undoubtedly two very popular destinations for international students seeking a quality education. Both countries offer world-renowned universities and colleges, but there are some notable differences between the two that you may want to consider before making your choice. 

Lots of similarities…

Good Quality of Education

For one, both Canada and the USA offer a wide variety of academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students can choose from fields such as business, engineering, humanities, science, and social sciences, among others. Many universities and colleges in both countries also have strong research programs, allowing students to gain practical experience in their field of study.


Secondly, both countries have a diverse and multicultural populations, providing an opportunity for students to learn about different cultures and perspectives. International students will find support services such as language assistance, cultural events, and counselling services in both countries.

High Standards of Living

Lastly, Canada and the USA have a high standard of living, with good healthcare and social welfare systems. According to the OECD Better Life Index, both countries “outperform the average in income, jobs, education, health, environmental quality, social connections and life satisfaction”. This makes them safe and comfortable places to live and study.

…but notable differences, too!

Tuition Costs

One of the biggest differences between studying in Canada and the USA is the cost of education. While both countries have high tuition fees, American universities tend to be more expensive. According to the College Board, the average annual tuition and fees for a public four-year university in the USA in 2022-2023 are $27,020 USD for out-of-state (and international) students, while the average tuition and fees for a private nonprofit four-year university are a whopping $39,400 USD per year! In contrast, the average annual undergraduate tuition fee for international students at Canadian universities sits slightly lower at $32,019 CAD for 2020-2021. That’s a difference of over $20,000 CAD! 

Financial Aid

While it’s true that both countries offer government-funded financial aid and scholarship programs for eligible students, the differences in the eligibility criteria often confuse many students who aren’t familiar with how each country’s system works. In Canada, financial aid is based on financial need, with students from low-income families receiving the most support. In contrast, financial aid in the USA is based on a combination of financial needs and academic merit. This means that students with excellent academic records may be eligible for more financial aid than those with lower grades, even if their financial need is similar.

So, what are the benefits of studying in each country? 

Well, it all depends on what your priorities are! If you are driven by your studies, are career-oriented and emphasize earning potential, then the USA might be a good option for you. On the other hand, if you prioritize the quality of life, healthcare and cost of living, then Canada could be a better option. Like most, you’ll eventually have to weigh the options yourself and decide based on what you think is best for you. 

Immigrating to Canada Post-Graduation

For many international students, work is not only a means to financial security but a path to immigrating permanently to the country of their study. In Canada, students can obtain what is known as a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) if they wish to stay in Canada after completing their studies. The program allows eligible international graduates to work in Canada for up to three years after graduation, which can help them gain valuable work experience and potentially transition to permanent residency. 

While the length of the PGWP depends on the length of the program of study, international students who are approved for a PGWP can work in Canada for any employer in any industry. They can work full-time or part-time and switch jobs or employers. They are not required to have a job offer before applying for the PGWP.

For more information on the Post-Graduate Work Permit program, please see here

Sources: Studying in Canada vs. the United States, Canada & USA: OECD Better Life Index, Trends in College Pricing: Highlights, Tuition fees for degree programs increase in 2020/2021, Post-Graduation Work Permit Program 

Disclaimer: The information is obtained directly from the websites that appear in the source section. The information has been gathered as accurately as possible at the time of writing, but we cannot guarantee its accuracy or completeness. Please check their official website and digital channels for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

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