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The Cost of Studying in Canada for International Students in 2021

Canada has historically been one of the most preferred study destinations by international students. Even when the country was besieged by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, international students continued to favor it as evidenced by the rising trend in student visa applications.


But how much will it cost international students to pursue studies in Canada? In this article, I will discuss what students can expect in terms of costs when studying in this great country.

Cost is a major factor in deciding to study abroad

According to an IDP Connect survey, the main driver for students to study abroad is to get better career prospects after graduation. This finding is reflected in a much larger and more recent study by QS International that indicated 54% would choose a university with a high graduate employment rate.


However, both studies indicate at least one-third of respondents place affordability as one of the top factors when deciding on the destination country. Given the many challenges of the past year, the decision to go or not will most likely hinge on the financial aspects of international study, particularly the tuition fees and cost-of-living expenses.

International student tuition fee trends for Canada

Tuition fees represent the bulk of the financial burden for international students. Like most countries, Canadian higher education institutions charge international students considerably higher tuition fees than domestic students.


Below is a historical representation of how much a foreign student in Canada pays for an undergraduate program per year.

undergraduate tuition fee graph for international students
Source: Statistics Canada

As you can see, overall tuition fees in Canada have been rising gradually at an average of 7.2% per year. They even increased in 2021 when many universities worldwide are slashing tuition fees to encourage enrolment. Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) HEIs, which was on a slightly downward trend, increased their tuition fees slightly in 2020/21.


As to the average cost of tuition, it varies widely from province to province, with Newfoundland and Labrador (N.L.) having the lowest average at just CA$11,983 a year, and Ontario having the highest at CA$40,724. Overall, the average tuition fee in Canada is CA$32,019, which is competitive with the US (CA$31,975.08) and lower than the UK (CA$38,164.20).


However, the importance of looking at the trends in tuition fees is to anticipate future increases through the course of a typical four-year undergraduate program. Given that the average annual increase over the last four years is about 7%, students can factor that in when doing their financial planning.

Non-tuition expenses for students

The cost of living for international students in Canada depends on the location. The price tags for housing, food, utilities, transportation, and health insurance vary from city to city, so it is important to think about that when choosing a university.


Below is a simplified breakdown of the cost of living expenses by province:

average monthly cost of living chart of intl students in canada
Source: Canada Visa

On average, an international student could live frugally on about CA$1,260 a month for living expenses or CA$5,040 per semester (4 months). That is more than the CA$10,000 yearly requirement (CA$11,000 in Quebec) by the government for international students.


Of course, those expenses can mount depending on the type of housing and lifestyle of the student. For example, the CA$600 indicated above for rent in Ontario refers to a shared apartment. A one-bedroom apartment costs about double that at CA$1,100. On the other hand, accommodation costs can go down considerably when staying in a dormitory, which can be as low as CA$3,000 a year.


Overall, however, the cost of living in Canada is quite reasonable, considering its status as a first-world country and a top education destination. It is comparable to the US, about 10% lower than in the UK, and 15% lower than Australia.

Key Takeaways

Studying in Canada as a foreigner is not going to be cheap, although it is on par with the US and cheaper than in the UK or Australia. Nevertheless, the tuition fee and cost-of-living expenses can be a significant investment, so students need to manage their expectations.


Managing students’ expectations is part of the job of a recruitment agent. This is why agents also need to know all these details in terms of expected costs in order to help students better prepare for their educational journey. Then again, wIth the lovely scenery and breathtaking modern landscapes, living in Canada as a student can be the experience of a lifetime and can be seen as an extended vacation of sorts–and this alone is well worth the cost.


Finally, the successful completion of an undergraduate course there can open many doors in employment and further studies. The returns on investment make it well worth the cost. (SUNEETHA QURESHI)


#PartnerForLife #InternationalEducation #InternationalStudents #MSM #GlobalEducationForAll

MSM VP Global Suneetha Qureshi

MSM President-Global Marketing Office (GMO)

Suneetha has more than 10 years of experience in the international education sector. As president of MSM GMO, she fortifies its business development outreach globally, particularly in the face of MSM’s foray in edtech-based recruitment via MSM Unify. She preserves the premium, value-adding services provided to each GMO partner institution, including dedicated teams on the ground, agent management, lead generation and inquiry management, application pre-screening, and student and parent support through pioneering pre-departure briefing sessions.

She has an impeccable track record of successfully launching the representative offices in Asia and Africa of many North American and European higher education institutions. Her key strengths include hiring, training, and developing teams as evidenced by the successful results of the dedicated in-country college and university client teams.

Suneetha also has taken the lead in developing several initiatives at MSM, including building robust standard operating procedures, the Rise ‘n Shine team engagement platform, and the organization’s data analytics and audit segments.



Bridgestock, L. (2021, May 28). How Much Does it Cost to Study in the US? Top Universities. https://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/student-finance/how-much-does-it-cost-study-us.


Canada Immigration Questions (FAQ). Canadavisa.com. (n.d.). https://www.canadavisa.com/canada-immigration-questions-faq.html#gs.3vckh0.


Cost of Living comparisons by Country. Expatistan, cost of living comparisons. (n.d.). https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/country/comparison.


G, J. (2021, March 21). Universities Changing Tuition Fees in Response to Coronavirus. Top Universities. https://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/student-finance/universities-changing-tuition-fees-response-coronavirus.


Government of Canada, Statistics Canada. (2020, September 21). Canadian and international tuition fees by level of study. https://doi.org/10.25318/3710004501-eng.


IDP Connect. (2020). Digital International Student Survey 2019. https://resources.idp-connect.com/digitalinternationalstudentsurvey2019.


Immigration, R. and C. C. (2021, May 6). Government of Canada. Canada.ca. https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/study-canada/study-permit/get-documents.html#doc3.


MSM GMO. (2021, June 10). Student Visa Trends for Canada. MSM GMO. https://msquaremedia.com/research/student-visa-trends-for-canada/.


Playdon, J. (2021, April 21). How Much Does it Cost to Study in the UK? Top Universities. https://www.topuniversities.com/student-info/student-finance/how-much-does-it-cost-study-uk.


QS Quacquarelli Symonds. (2021, February 17). International Student Survey 2020. QS. https://www.qs.com/portfolio-items/international-student-survey-2020/.


Studying in Ontario (FAQ). Canadavisa.com. (n.d.). https://www.canadavisa.com/studying-in-ontario-faq.html#gs.3vdsey.


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