Is College Free in Canada? (2023)

Moving to Canada to attend college is an interesting option for sure. Canada is overall cheaper, and with comparable quality of life to the United States.

But is college free in Canada?

The short answer is no.

There are, however, some caveats to consider. Even if it isn’t entirely free, you can expect to pay a lot less compared to the US for similar training.

Is it a viable option to study in Canada? Absolutely. Does it make sense for your situation? Perhaps.

In this article, we are going to analyze in-depth the costs of college in Canada, and if you should consider going there.

College in Canada isn’t the Same as in the United States

Before getting into the monetary stuff, it is important to make a distinction, especially if you are going to ask questions to a Canadian person.

While college and university are pretty much synonyms in the United States, they are different schools in Canada. The Canadian equivalent is simply called university. College is a completely different type of school. They are more like vocational schools, and they are more focused on teaching a job. Think trade schools / college juniors.

(Video) Is Education Really Free in Canada? | Schools in Canada

Editor’s note: For the sake of the article, when you read college, assume we’re talking about universities. We are going with the general accepted US meaning.

How Much Does It Cost to Attend College in Canada?

College in Canada isn’t free. But it’s way more affordable than in the United States. For comparison, the average yearly tuition in the US is about $32.000, while the average yearly tuition in Canada is about $5.000.

Naturally, there are many factors influencing the prices, as these are the averages.

There are colleges in the US where you can pay up to $80.000-90.000 per year. But there are also colleges that are way more affordable. Still, even the cheapest US universities can’t compare to average Canadian ones when it comes to affordability.

But there’s a catch.

The average tuition fee we reported only applies to residents. If you are an international student, don’t expect to pay less than $20.000/year as a tuition.

It’s still cheaper than the US by a wide margin, and living in Canada is cheaper too. But the option might lose some of its appeal. Still, studying abroad is a great way to open your mind and get in touch with different cultures.

There Is a Way to Attend College for Free in Canada

It is, in fact, way easier to attend college for free in Canada thanks to the many scholarships available to both local and international students.

(Video) Study in Canada For Free 2023| APPLY NOW for Tuition Fee Exemptions In Quebec

Let’s take a quick look at the two most interesting scholarships for international students in Canada.

Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship

  • What: a full scholarship for doctoral studies in any field
  • Who: both local and international students
  • How: you have to inform the faculty you want to apply for the program, or get nominated by it. You can’t apply directly for this scholarship.

Ontario Trillium Scholarship (OTS)

  • What: a full scholarship for doctoral studies in any field
  • Who: this scholarship is exclusively for international students
  • How: students get selected by the faculty. You can’t directly apply to the program. You can only notify the institution you are interested in the scholarship. They will evaluate your situation by themselves.

Warning: this program is currently suspended. We expect it to come back once the COVID situation has been sorted out.

There are many other scholarship programs available for international students who wish to study in Canada. But generally, they only offer some economic benefits, without covering the entire tuition fee. This means you’ll still have to pay some money to attend these schools.

Still, they could be enough for you to decide to study abroad. If you want to look deeper into these programs, look for the Nelson Mandela Award by the University of Toronto, and the F.A. Davis Scholarship for nursing.

How to Get a Scholarship

Scholarships are awarded to outstanding students. So, the obvious answer would be: “become an outstanding student!”.


A student is considered outstanding because of its academic and life achievements. It’s not enough to be a model student with high grades. Scholarships are competitive, you need to prove that investing on you is worth it to the institution.

Start with your grades. If your GPA is lower than 3.0 don’t even bother. The closer to 4.0, the better. Then, consider your extracurricular activities. Which ones are the most likely to impress the administration?

(Video) Is college in Canada free?

If you, like me, are a beer pong champion, you probably don’t want to put it in your resume. But if you do volunteering, or excel at a sport, then by all means add these relevant facts about yourself in your application.

Also, prepare a killer essay. There are many guides on the Internet on how to do it, but the general gist of it is that you want to demonstrate your dedication to the school. This is the best way to prove you’ll be an investment for the institution granting your scholarship, so craft a great essay. It’s your ticket to the money.

Why Study in Canada?

Canada is an interesting place to study in. It’s overall cheaper than the US, with a comparable quality of living.

The country has two official languages, so if you’re enamored with how French sounds, you can kill two birds with one stone and learn the ropes of the language. Just don’t expect everyone to actually know French.

Canada is also way more peaceful than the US as a country. It’s probably because fewer people live there, but it’s not just that. Canadians in general are more peaceful than US residents, so if you’re looking to get away from a noisy environment, Canada might be an excellent choice.

Studying abroad is a wonderful experience, since you get the opportunity to get in contact with different cultures. It’s a great way to open up your mind to the blessings of this world. You’ll learn so much about yourself and get a different perspective on life.

The Downsides of Studying in Canada

There are, of course, downsides to studying in Canada as well.

The biggest one is that employers might not take a college degree from Canada as seriously as one from the United States. While these types of employers have their reasons, I think they’re a bit too overzealous in their judgments. They are a dying breed for sure.

(Video) Top 10 CHEAPEST and Most AFFORDABLE Universities in CANADA for International students in 2023

You probably don’t want to work for these people anyway. If they judge your worth because of where you got your degree, they aren’t very bright.

Still, it’s absolutely a factor to consider. If employment is your number 1 priority, nothing will beat a US college.

Another potential issue is housing. Yes, Canada is cheaper than the US, but you still need to find housing, and living is expensive no matter where you go. At least, in first world countries.

Last, the paperwork might put off lazier people. Bureaucracy is a huge turn off for many, because it feels like you are doing a lot of irrelevant stuff just because someone decided so. I understand you. Been there, done that.


Studying in Canada isn’t free, but it’s way cheaper than in the US. There are upsides and downsides to studying abroad, so my suggestion is to weigh them and understand which ones would impact you the most.

The prospect of studying abroad is super cool, and more people should do it. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to afford it. Scholarships help with that.

If you’re looking to pursue higher education, Canada is easily one of the best countries to do so.


Is going to college in Canada free? ›

College isn't free in Canada, but it's more affordable than in many other English-speaking countries.

Why college should be free in Canada? ›

Canada's Private Sector Union

It's time to make tuition free for college and university students because post-secondary education is one of the biggest things that creates opportunity, equality, and community-building skills. Right now, millions of deserving students in Canada can't afford post-secondary education.

Is it worth going to Canada for college? ›

Going to Canada for studies is always a promising prospect. It is a popular choice for most of the students owing to high-quality education, affordable cost of living, advanced healthcare facilities, mesmerizing landscape, and progressive politics.

Do you think college should be completely free? ›

Because education is such a vital part of life, there are many reasons why college should be free. Not only do the arguments for debt-free education include personal benefits, but they also show how education helps to positively impact society overall.

Can a US citizen go to college in Canada? ›

You should apply for a study permit before coming to Canada. Only some people can apply for a study permit from within Canada. Before you apply, you must have a letter of acceptance from a designated learning institution in Canada.

Is college cheaper in Canada than US? ›

Additionally, on average, Canadian university tuition fees are 27% more economical than tuition fees at US universities. However, tuition fees are not the only factor to consider. The cost of living is also a lot lower in Canada. International students may be choosing to study in Canada because it's more affordable.

What would happen if university was free in Canada? ›

Free tuition would provide significant economic benefit to Canada. Post-secondary graduates are more productive, earn higher incomes, pay more in taxes, use fewer healthcare services and are less likely to depend on social assistance.

Why college in Canada is better? ›

From elementary to post-secondary studies, Canada is known for offering high quality education and research opportunities. You'll also have the flexibility to transfer between types and levels of education without running into roadblocks common in other parts of the world.

What would happen if college was free? ›

By negating the large bill of a college education, we could see an increase in the number of students able to attend college. This then creates a more well-educated workforce, a population that has better critical thinking skills, and increased innovation across a number of industries and society as a whole.

Is it better to go to college in Canada or USA? ›

If rankings are important to you, colleges and universities in the United States are worth considering. Among the top 20 best global universities, 15 are in the United States. Canada's top-ranked university is number 18 on that list.

Is it better to study in the US or Canada? ›

A. Students are attracted to study in the U.S. because various top-ranked global universities are situated there. American universities hold a better rank and prestige as compared to Canadian universities. USA offers top ranking courses and has a good reputation globally for its education, courses and degree programs.

Is it worth moving to Canada from USA? ›

Migrating to Canada is a great opportunity to start anew. There are many reasons why it may be worth it for you and your family. Canada's multicultural society and high quality of life make the country a perfect place for immigrants. However, deciding to move from one country to another can be challenging.

How much would taxes increase if college was free? ›

Over an 11-year time frame, a First-Dollar Tuition-Free program would cost a total of $800 billion. The cheapest free college program, the Last-Dollar Tuition-Free program would cost $28 billion the year it is implemented. Free college would cost on average three times what federal tax dollars pay for now.

What is the Harvard of Canada? ›

McGill University is Canada's second finest university, trailing only Toronto. This reflects in McGill University's status as Canada's Harvard and Toronto University's status as the country's Oxford.

Is the US cheaper than Canada? ›

Conclusion. Overall, both Canada and the US are fairly expensive to live in. Canada has much higher housing costs but healthcare costs are much more expensive in the US. While US salaries are slightly higher, Canadians have a much easier time making a higher salary with less education.

How expensive is it for an American to go to college in Canada? ›

On average in Canada, university tuition costs around: $6,800 per year for international undergraduate students (Statistics Canada, 2022) $21,100 per year for international graduate students (Statistics Canada, 2022)

Why do Americans study in Canada? ›

Affordable tuition

The average tuition cost for international students is $14,000 in Canadian dollars per year (2 semesters), or about $10,500 U.S. a year at the current exchange rate. Canada offers the lowest tuition rates for international students compared to the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.

Why do Americans go to Canada? ›

Why do U.S. residents immigrate to Canada? Canada may be an attractive option for many U.S. residents for a plethora of reasons, most notably: Free universal healthcare: Canadians and permanent residents do not have to worry about huge medical bills. Better work-life balance: Workers in Canada enjoy shorter hours.

Is college harder in Canada or USA? ›

No, not at all. Canadian universities are generally public universities and therefore standards are maintained across the board. They also cost less to attend. The only American universities that could conceivably be judged as significantly better are the very expensive ivy-league universities in the States.

How much would taxpayers pay for free college Canada? ›

The abolition of university and college tuition fees and related costs would mean an extra $1. 1 billion a year if applied solely to Quebec students, and $1.3 billion if extended to Canadian and foreign students, supposing that the number of students remained constant.

Is hospital free in Canada? ›

All citizens and permanent residents, however, receive medically necessary hospital and physician services free at the point of use. To pay for excluded services, including outpatient prescription drugs and dental care, provinces and territories provide some coverage for targeted groups.

Do Canadian universities get money from the government? ›

Public funding is still the major source of funding in most Canadian provinces.

Is it harder to get into college in Canada? ›

Canadian undergraduate programs are, in general, easier to get into than in the US, and Canadian universities overall have higher acceptance rates for both domestic and international students.

Which is better for jobs Canada or USA? ›

While the USA offers better salary packages, Canada has better healthcare, more maternity leaves and other social benefits. Average work hours for Canada is slightly higher than that of the US. The annual leave structure of both countries is similar.

Who would benefit most from free college? ›

Free college programs benefit higher-income students the most. Contrary to their reputation as “progressive,” free college programs overwhelmingly allocate taxpayer dollars toward upper- and upper-middle-class students, giving them a further head start than they already have in the higher education system.

What would free college cost the US? ›

Free College Definitions

The government covers any tuition remaining at public colleges and universities after a student's existing federal financial aid award is applied. This plan would cost $27.8 billion in the first year and $414.9 billion over an additional decade.

How would free college be paid for? ›

First-dollar tuition-free programs mean that the government would pay for tuition before any grant aid is applied and the student can use that aid to cover other costs of attendance.

How long can a US citizen live in Canada? ›

Most visitors can stay for up to 6 months in Canada. At the port of entry, the border services officer may allow you to stay for less or more than 6 months.

Is it easy for US citizens to live in Canada? ›

Generally speaking, moving to Canada is not too difficult. Because Canada is open to welcoming new immigrants and offers several immigration programs, it's easier for you to qualify for one immigration stream. Still, you have to meet the requirements for the pathway you want to apply for.

Is it hard for a US citizen to move to Canada? ›

There are a few ways you can move to Canada if you're a US citizen, and you don't have to become a Canadian citizen to live there. You can get a regular visitor visa and stay up to six months, request to extend your stay in Canada as a visitor, or become a permanent resident.

Why should college be free in the US? ›

Free college education may have a large short-run cost, but it will provide significant benefits in the long run. Policies that increase college attainment can pay for themselves because college graduates have been proven to earn higher wages, and, therefore, have the capacity to pay higher taxes (Deming, 2019).

Why should college be free? ›

Research shows that free tuition programs encourage more students to attend college and increase graduation rates, which creates a better-educated workforce and higher-earning consumers who can help boost the economy.

How do countries with free college pay for it? ›

In addition to that, some countries require the students to pay for that education in a different way, typically through military service. So, as is true in many cases, free is a relative term. The burden of the cost usually falls back on the taxpayers.

Where is college free in the world? ›

Norway offers free college tuition at all of its public universities for both Norwegians and international students. The Norwegian government funds these universities to help degree-seekers graduate with less debt. Norway also offers scholarships and grants to cover living expenses in the high-cost-of-living country.

How does free college increase equality? ›

Free college tuition programs have proved effective in helping mitigate the system's current inequities by increasing college enrollment, lowering dependence on student loan debt and improving completion rates, especially among students of color and lower-income students who are often the first in their family to ...

How does free education improve society? ›

Those who get an education have higher incomes, have more opportunities in their lives, and tend to be healthier. Societies benefit as well. Societies with high rates of education completion have lower crime, better overall health, and civic involvement. Lack of access to education is considered the root of poverty.

What are 3 reasons college should not be free? ›

Why College Should Not Be Free – 6 Reasons
  • 1 The Politics of Higher Education.
  • 2 Issues With Graduated Students.
  • 3 There Is Already Plenty Of Help Available.
  • 4 Choice Would Be Limited.
  • 5 More Government Control.
  • 6 Negative Effects From The Public.
  • 7 Not Everybody Wants To Go To College.

Does free college benefit the rich? ›

Q: Would free education beyond high school reduce income gaps? PS: The Brookings Institution estimates that students in the top half of the income distribution would receive 24% more benefits (measured in dollars) from universal free college than those in the bottom half of the distribution.

Is free college anti poor? ›

3 billion to SUCs for free tuition is “anti-poor” because this considers only tuition in the cost of higher education, FEF said. “Tuition covers only one-third of the cost of attending college. The balance consists of cost of living allowances, which the poor are in no position to pay.

What country is college free? ›

Norway. Norway offers free college tuition at all of its public universities for both Norwegians and international students. The Norwegian government funds these universities to help degree-seekers graduate with less debt.

How do you pay for college in Canada? ›

The Canada Student Financial Assistance Program offers grants and loans to full-time and part-time students to help pay for their post-secondary education.
  1. Apply with 1 application, through your province or territory of residence.
  2. You don't need to pay back grants.
  3. You do need to pay back loans after finishing school.
Oct 4, 2022

How much would free university cost Canada? ›

The abolition of university and college tuition fees and related costs would mean an extra $1. 1 billion a year if applied solely to Quebec students, and $1.3 billion if extended to Canadian and foreign students, supposing that the number of students remained constant. "The very concept of 'free' tuition is misleading.

What age is college free in Canada? ›

Canadian Universities That Offer Tuition-Free Courses and Programs for Seniors
UniversityAge of eligibility
University of British Colombia65 and older
University of Calgary65 and older
University of Saskatchewan65 and older
6 more rows
May 28, 2022

Does America have any free colleges? ›

Berea College (Kentucky)

Since 1892, Berea has made tuition free to its students through its Tuition Promise Scholarship, which adopts a funding model that mainly depends on endowments and a federal budget. The institution's work program is also well-known for helping students earn money to cover additional expenses.

Can college be free in America? ›

There was a time in the United States when some public colleges and universities charged no tuition. However, tuition has never been set as a national policy -- it is a decision for each school or state government officials.

Is there free college in America yes or no? ›

Is there a free college? There is no such thing as a truly free college education. But some colleges offer free tuition programs for students, and more than 20 states offer some type of tuition-free college program. In addition, students may also want to check out employer-based programs.

How much is college in Canada for US citizens? ›

University costs

Tuition fees for universities vary depending on the program and school you choose. On average in Canada, university tuition costs around: $6,800 per year for international undergraduate students (Statistics Canada, 2022) $21,100 per year for international graduate students (Statistics Canada, 2022)

Do Americans have to pay for college in Canada? ›

Education Isn't Free, But It's Affordable

Universities and colleges in Canada aren't automatically free for locals and foreign students. However, they are subsidized, so students can pay less for their education.

Is Medical free in Canada? ›

Public healthcare is free because patients are not required to pay any fees to receive medical attention at a healthcare facility. However, public healthcare in Canada is funded by a tax paid by Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

Who gets free university in Canada? ›

Answer-There are no tuition-free universities in Canada, either for international or domestic students. However, some universities are backed by fully-funded scholarships that will fund students' complete education.

How much would free college cost in the US? ›

Free College Definitions

The government covers any tuition remaining at public colleges and universities after a student's existing federal financial aid award is applied. This plan would cost $27.8 billion in the first year and $414.9 billion over an additional decade.

What is the maximum age limit to study in Canada? ›

International students often ask whether there is an age limit to studying in Canada. The answer is that there is no specific age limit, but there are a few factors to keep in mind.

Can I go to study Canada at age 40? ›

There is no such age limit for a Canadian Student Visa. If there is any restriction, it will be at the university level, not the visa level. The first step would be finding a DLI that accepts candidates over 40 years of age.

Is education free in Canada for immigrants? ›

Education. Permanent residents have the right to free education up to the age of 18 in the Canadian public school system.


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