Education News – Dollar parity: deterrent or draw for university recruitment

American students say Canadian education is worth increasing cost

SACKVILLE (CUP) — The relationship between Canadian and American currency has become a concern for Canadian universities that recruit students, and funding, from the U.S.

While many American students studying in Canada are likely getting a better deal than if they were to attend similar institutions in the U.S., that very fact could be driving away some markets.

Matthew Sheridan-Jonah, manager of admissions at Mount Allison University, said that it isn’t safe to assume the strength of the Canadian dollar will harm U.S. enrolment.

In fact, he thinks that high international student fees might make Canada more attractive to prospective American students.

While American students pay at least twice as much as their Canadian counterparts, many U.S. students, particularly those in private high schools, ?don’t consider Canadian schools because of how relatively inexpensive they are. [The students are] associating cost with quality.?

Instead, said Sheridan-Jonah, the comparatively lower cost of a Canadian education ?hurts us within a certain market.?

In 2006, there were 156,955 students from abroad studying in Canada. Nearly half of them were from Asia and approximately one in ten was American.

International tuition ranges from $6,207.44 for 30 credit hours in the Faculty of Arts at Brandon University, Manitoba, to $18,698 for Arts in the University of British Columbia.

While this may seem like an unfair penalty for choosing a university a few miles up the road, some American students see a better education with a lower price tag as the main draw.

Jenn Guare, a fourth-year student from Bangor, Maine, said that while she pays about $20,000 in tuition and related fees each year, ?a comparable experience and education in the U.S. would cost at least $40,000 per year.?

Michelle Mitchell, also from Maine, chose a Canadian education primarily for financial reasons.

?The cost was definitely number one,? she said.

Fifth-year student Joe Simms chose to move north because, he said, it was the ?best school that accepted [him].? But money was also a key factor in his decision. ?When I was a senior in high school,? he said, ?the U.S. dollar was 1.56 Canadian dollars, so I figured I’d get the same or better education as my older sister for about half the cost.?

Like Guare, Simms noted that while American students are paying more than domestic students per year, ?In the grand scheme of things, Mt. A is cheap . . . every other school I was looking at attending started at $35,000 and only went up from there.?

Sheridan-Jonah, though, worries that recruiting American students ?will be more difficult? now that the loonie has surpassed the greenback in value.
He used to cite the stronger U.S. dollar as a selling point; a strategy that is no longer an option while recruitment in the U.S.

Sheridan-Jonah admits that he cannot predict whether Canada’s economic situation will affect enrolment, but remains optimistic.

?So far, the response [in the U.S.] has been really positive,? he said.

American students are not the only ones to be affected by parity. Since so many countries base their currency on the American dollar, nearly all international students are affected by the tumbling currency.

The strong dollar could force international students to seek a less expensive education elsewhere.

Parity will also have a considerable impact on university finances, aside from enrolment issues.

Endowments from American sources and investments in U.S. equity markets will both decrease as the value of the Canadian dollar increases.

It is still too early to tell whether the effects of the still-increasing value of the loonie will be positive or negative. The overall consequences of parity are crucial?but they’re impossible to predict.

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