'Canadian Ivy' branding pays off with increased enrolment

VANCOUVER (CUP) — Tuition increases are not expected to stop American students from choosing the University of British Columbia, as enrolment of international students from the United States has been on the rise for the past eight years.

“Our numbers have gone from 40 to 450 in the last eight years,” said Donald Wehrung, head of the UBC International Student Initiative.

This growth is a direct result of the authorization given by the UBC board of governors in January 1996 to “expand the enrolment of international students,” he added.

Currently there are 3,900 international students enrolled at the university, according to Wehrung.

Recruitment of U.S. students involves visiting colleges, high schools and fairs promoting UBC as part of a “Canadian Ivy” rubric, which includes the University of Toronto and Queen’s University.

The high entrance fees and standards of the American Ivy League universities have made UBC a very attractive alternative for U.S. students.

“I think there are several reasons why; the primary reason is that U.S. students feel that they get good value for money at UBC,” said Wehrung.

American students agree that the difference in cost is an important consideration.

“It is more expensive for me to be here than most Canadian students; however, it’s still less expensive than if I were to go to an American university, outside of state,” said Stephen Friedman-Gerlicz, a first-year student from New Mexico.

Friedman-Gerlicz said it costs him about $16,000 to attend UBC, including food and housing at Totem Park Residence, whereas it would cost him about $30,000 to attend an American university.

Financial assistance and awards are available to international students to help with the cost. In the 2004 winter session, 190 U.S. student loan recipients were enrolled at UBC, said Rella Ng from UBC’s financial aid office.

“There are no bursaries specifically for U.S. students but there are scholarships for international students,” said Ng.

Aside from the financial considerations, U.S. students seem to enjoy being in a relatively familiar setting. Friedman-Gerlicz wanted to go somewhere a little bit different and while visiting UBC last summer, discovered he liked the experience of being an international student while still enjoying some of the familiarities of home.

This is common among students from the U.S., according to Wehrung.

“What a number of students have said that they like about UBC is that it’s different than being in the U.S., because there is less emphasis on the sports side of campus and more the student life side . . . but there is still the English language medium, and still basically the same TV signals,” said Wehrung.

In the future, Wehrung expects the number of U.S. students to continue to rise because, “they can get all that at a good tuition level and they don’t have to go very far for it.”