Tuition half of Yale's luring U.S. students north of border
By Frederic Tomesco
Bloomberg News Service
By Frederic Tomesco
McGill University boosters have a T-shirt waiting for students like Meredith Yasek, a 17-year-old Boston resident who wants to attend the Montreal school next year: "Harvard — America's McGill."
"It's one of the premier institutions in North America, the one in Canada that Americans know about," said Yasek, who also is applying to Columbia University, Cornell University, Duke University and Yale University. "It's the Harvard of Canada."
The Canadian school is luring students like Yasek with the reputation of its professors and a price tag that's 50 percent less than some American universities. The number of students from the United States doubled in the past five years, and now account for about 7 percent of the school's 32,800 students.
McGill tied the University of Toronto as Canada's No. 1 doctoral university in Maclean's magazine's annual rankings this month, the first time it has done so in more than a decade. Canada's lone newsweekly has been rating universities for 15 years, taking into account criteria such as student grades, faculty and reputation.
Founded as the University of McGill College in 1821 with a bequest from Scottish-born Montreal fur trader James McGill, the school has grown into an academic institution that offers studies in 300 disciplines, with seven affiliated teaching hospitals and 14 libraries.
McGill's Harvard T-shirt, made by students without the school's approval, is more a reflection of the university's aspirations than a reality. In a global ranking published Oct. 28 by the London's Times Higher Education Supplement, the Canadian school fell three places from last year to 24th, way behind the Cambridge, Mass., university, which was No. 1.
McGill has sought to climb those ranks by adding staff. About 500 professors, or about 33 percent of McGill's teachers, were added in the past five years.
Tuition is another attraction for foreign students. A year in Yale's engineering program, to which Yasek is applying, costs about $41,000 for tuition, room and board. McGill's international students pay about half as much, including books, food, lodging, insurance and fees.
"That was the first thing that made me want to look at Canada," Yasek said. "For such a good education, it's amazing that tuition can be so much lower."
Tuition at Canadian schools, as well as at some state universities in the United States, is lower because governments subsidize them. Almost a third of McGill's budget in 2003-04 came from the Quebec government.
Such spending also has benefited schools such as the University of Toronto and California's public university system, helping them lure students who can't afford an Ivy League education.
"Tuition is a really big attraction for a U.S. student," said Elysia Blake, an arts student who holds dual French and U.S. citizenship.
And, she said, "when you come out of McGill, you know that people the world over will know where you came from."