With its globally recognised universities and incredible quality of life, Canada is an attractive destination for international students. And one of the most important factors that might make or break the deal? You guessed it – the cost to study in Canada. Canadian institutions can sometimes be more affordable than schools in other English-speaking countries. But depending on a range of factors, they might still be relatively expensive. This is especially the case as international students tend to pay a fair bit more than Canadian students for tuition. What will it cost you to study in Canada?
There’s More to It Than Tuition Fees
Putting aside tuition fees for a moment, there’s the question of living costs too. How much rent, utilities, food, and so on will add up to is very much an important part of your budgeting decisions. As part of your study permit application, you need to show that you have between CAD 10,000-11,000 to financially support yourself in Canada. This sum is separate from your tuition fees. And it’s also an estimate for living costs in Canada – meaning it can skew higher or lower.
Ultimately, how much it costs to study in Canada will depend on a bunch of things. Canadian university fees and living costs can vary wildly based on many factors. Let’s break them down so you have a better understanding of what to expect!
Study Costs in Canada
Tuition Fees in Canada
Canadian universities set their own tuition fees, so the fee structures will vary. But that’s not the only reason tuition fees differ. Canadian university fees may also vary depending on:
- What program you’re studying
- What level of education you’re enrolling in (i.e. diploma, undergraduate, graduate)
- The size of your university
- The location of your university
For international students, Statistics Canada estimates that tuition fees rose by 4.9% for undergraduates between 2021-2022. Average fees round up to CAD 33,623. For graduates, average tuition fees increased by around 3.6% since 2021. At present, the average fees for a graduate degree round up at CAD 20,120.
Tuition fees do tend to increase every year, so these shifts are not surprising. To get an idea of tuition fees in Canada for international students in 2023, consult fee structures of the previous year to give you an idea of what to expect for the cost to study in Canada.
Remember, the tuition fees for different programs at the same school will vary. They’ll also vary across different schools.
Here’s a breakdown of average Canadian university fees for different programs:
Average Undergraduate Fees for International Students (CAD)
Business, management, and public administration
Overall, professional degree programs (including fields like medicine, dentistry, optometry, law) cost more. Programs in humanities and social and behavioural sciences on average cost less.
Again, there can be plenty of variation in fees depending on schools and locations. For example, business, management, and administration courses can be thousands of dollars cheaper in Newfoundland and Labrador than in Ontario.
To check the cost to study in Canada across schools and locations, check out this EduCanada tool. It lets you input specific details like:
- The program you’re considering
- Level of study
- Locations you’re considering
- Universities you’re considering
- Specific degree programs from different universities
The site then generates a breakdown of tuition and living costs for your chosen programs. You get to compare the average costs of the same program in different locations, too. This is a super handy way to help you decide where you want to study and how much it may cost!
Living Costs in Canada
Canada is the second-largest country in the world. Across its three provinces and ten territories, you’ll find everything from busy city centres to calm and quiet suburbs. As a result, as you might guess, the living costs in Canada will vary depending on location, too.
According to Mercer’s 2021 Cost of Living Survey, Vancouver and Toronto are the most expensive cities in Canada. The survey considers over 200 items under the following categories from the perspective of international employees:
- Domestic supplies
- Home services
- Personal Care
- Clothing and footwear
- Recreation and entertainment
- Alcohol and tobacco
The same survey ranks Montreal, Calgary, and Ottawa as more affordable.
Similarly, QS Top Universities' Best Student Cities 2022 also ranks Toronto and Vancouver as Canada's least affordable student abodes. Montreal and Quebec on the other hand fall on the more affordable side.
Take a look at how broadly your costs can vary depending on where you’re living and studying:
|Concordia University (Montreal)
|Ryerson University (Toronto)
|Simon Fraser University (Vancouver)
|Carleton University (Ottawa)
|McGill University (Quebec)
|Books & supplies
|CAD 1,400 - CAD 8,000
|CAD 128 (in the Greater Toronto Area)
|CAD 3,917 - 8,800
|CAD 9,289.06 - CAD 21,600
|CAD 6,448 (on-campus)
|CAD 8,600 (off-campus) - CAD 10,893 (on-campus inc. meal plan)
|CAD 6,000 - CAD 19,079
|Food & Household
|CAD 4,384 - CAD 5,949
|CAD 4,660 (Residence Meal Plan)
|CAD 2,600 - CAD 5,475
What to Consider When Figuring Out Living Costs in Canada
Like tuition fees, many individual factors determine how much it’ll cost to live and study in Canada. For example, how much you pay for accommodation will vary depending on what type of accommodation you choose. Homestays and renting out private apartments, usually with others, may be cheaper than on-campus accommodation. Then there’s the matter of location. Apartments closer to city centres likely cost more than those farther out from the city centre. Rent can also vary depending on which city you're studying in. You’d have to figure out the cost of transport depending on where you stay and all the different budget options there too.
All this information might seem overwhelming at first, especially if this is your first time living abroad. But with the proper research, you can figure out what works for you financially. Tools like EduCanada’s cost calculator and cost of living comparisons help you figure out how to budget properly. What’s your budget for rent? How would that affect your monthly transport and utility bills? What type of lifestyle are you looking to live in Canada? You’ll figure out your personal cost of living by answering these questions.
A Couple of Tips to Manage Your Living Costs in Canada
- Student Discounts – make sure you claim your student discounts! From monthly transport passes to restaurants and stores, you can enjoy generous marked-down prices as a student.
- Accommodation – for your first year, you might want to stay on-campus for convenience. As you grow familiar with the place, look for more affordable alternatives. Your school might be able to give you a list of apartments to rent by yourself or with others in nearby neighborhoods. Many university towns may have student hubs with cheaper rent.
- Work – international students can work in Canada without needing a work permit. You can work up to 20 hours during semesters, and full-time over breaks. If you’re enrolled in a co-op program, you can also do paid work as part of your curriculum! This helps you offset some of your bills
- Scholarships – several Canadian universities consider you for scholarships as soon as you apply. To increase your chances:
- Maintain steady academic performance so your admissions average is above 80%
- Apply early, since many universities approve students on a first-come, first-serve basis
- Don’t limit yourself to the biggest or fully-funded awards. You can apply for multiple smaller awards, or awards for your specific program or faculty.
- Consider in-course awards. If you perform well during your first semester or year, you may qualify for scholarships the following year!
Additional Costs to Study in Canada
University Application Fee
Sometimes you have to pay a fee to process your application. This can be anywhere between CAD 40 to 300, depending on the school. Other schools, like the University of British Columbia, don’t require application fees.
Study Permit Fee
Applying for a study permit to study, live, and work in Canada requires a fee of CAD 150 CAD. If you need to give biometrics or sit an interview, there may be additional fees.
What will it cost to study in Canada? As you can see, it depends. There’s plenty of factors which contribute to your expenses. The university and program you pick, the location of this university, where you’re staying, etc., all play a part. So, be sure to explore the many options available to find something that fits your budget! Remember to consider options like work and scholarships to offset your tuition fees and living costs as well.