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Crazy College Admissions and the Canadian Alternative

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Message Patrick Mattimore
    Elite American universities now routinely reject over 80% of their applicants, most of whom are perfectly well-qualified to succeed at those schools. Tuition and expenses at private colleges in the U.S.are typically around $50,000 US per year. No matter that we have no way to judge whether those schools are delivering the goods. Colleges are evaluated, not according to the product they turn out, but by how difficult they make it to get in.      
     Parents and students willing to think beyond U.S. borders about college will find attractive and affordable alternatives to cutthroat admissions' policies at American universities. Canada, which has a population slightly smaller than California’s, has 40% more post-secondary schools than California, according to statistics from the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) and the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Canada’s relative plethora of colleges assures that most students, including Americans, will be able to attend the college of their choice.

     Americans should think about Canada, not just as a place to get bargain prescription drugs, but as a quality, low-cost college alternative. Here’s a
partial laundry list of  the reasons why:
•    Cost (Savings over four years at a small liberal arts college in Canada will be around $100,000 compared to a similar American school and the AUCC estimates that fees to public U.S. universities were almost one-third higher than fees for bachelors’ degree programs in Canada in 2003. Costs for basic goods and services are similarly lower with monthly rents for a typical Canadian  one-bedroom apartment averaging $550.00 per month. Given current exchange rates, that’s less than $500.00 per month in U.S. currency).
•    Geographic advantage for American applicants (There are still less than 10,000 American students in Canadian colleges, undergraduate and graduate combined, and Canada is actively reaching out to recruit international- including American- students).
•    School quality (Several of Canada’s large universities such as McGill and the University of Toronto routinely rank above famous American schools in International "best of" surveys and according to AUCC a Canadian degree is recognized as equivalent to a U.S. degree).
•     Reverse geographic advantage in applying to graduate schools in the U.S. as an international student (Additionally, should an American student choose to pursue a graduate program in Canada, many of the programs are dual degree, recognized in both countries, and thereby afford students the chance to practice professionally in the U.S.).
•     Most Canadian schools are within 100 miles of the border (San Francisco, for example, is over 300 miles closer to The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, than it is to the University of Colorado in Boulder).
•     International experience (There’s a big difference between having international students at a U.S. university and being part of an international community at a foreign school. As a bilingual country Canada attracts a wide variety of international students).
•    Safe cities (The World Bank ranks Canada among the best places in the world to live, work, and study).

    As Canadian visionary, Marshall McLuhan, recognized nearly 40 years ago when he referred to the coming world as a “global village,” our community is becoming increasingly interdependent across borders. Low costs and high quality make Canada a bargain for Americans willing to do a little shopping in the global village.

    Full disclosure: Both my children have attended universities in Canada.

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Freelance journalist; fellow, Institute for Analytic Journalism.
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