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Financial Aid Options for International Students at Canadian Universities

Friday | March 9, 2018 | by Abigail Byle

Financial aid Canada international students

Canadian universities are seeing ever-increasing numbers of international students, but these students often face challenges, such as high tuition and fees. Most of the universities in Canada are publicly funded, which helps to keep tuition fees lower than in some other countries, while still offering a high-quality education. Unfortunately, however, most financial aid options at universities in Canada are primarily intended for Canadian students. International students may have limited resources available to them and will be expected by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to finance their studies in Canada on their own.

Understanding what costs you should expect will help to guide your financial plan as a whole. Check out the following resources to help you plan for your study abroad expenses:

  • University of Toronto’s Student Financial Planner: This tool allows you to estimate education costs according to your specific degree program and status. Although other universities will have different tuition fees, education costs across Canada for public universities do not vary too widely, so the University of Toronto planner is a useful tool even for studying elsewhere.
  • International Centre for Students at the University of Manitoba’s Guide to Expenses: This resource is for international students, specifically, and provides a handy breakdown of the costs you can expect to pay while studying.

With a financial plan in mind, you can begin to investigate funding opportunities.

How to Start Your Financial Aid Search

A good place for international students to begin to look for funding is in their home countries, such as an education department or ministry, as there will likely be financial aid programs available for students studying abroad. Once you have explored options in your home country, you can visit the Government of Canada International Scholarships and International Council for Canadian Studies websites to get an overview of the financial aid landscape in Canada. Finally, once you have submitted your applications, you should start exploring financial aid opportunities at the universities to which you have applied directly.

Types of Financial Aid Available

Some types of financial assistance available include scholarships, bursaries, awards, grants, fellowships, and loans. Below are descriptions of the financial aid options available to you as an international student.

Scholarships and Bursaries

Scholarships and bursaries are forms of monetary support that are available to international students to help them finance their education. Neither source requires repayment and they often take into account work and volunteer experience, which may be a benefit to any international students with more extensive professional experience. After selecting the university you are planning to attend, or at least finalizing the top choices, visit the financial aid website to search for scholarships, bursaries, and any other funding for which you might be eligible.

These are the distinctions between bursaries and scholarships:

  • Bursaries are offered to students with financial need, so there is usually an application required and you may also need to submit a need assessment of some sort to verify your finances.
  • Scholarships are offered to students on the basis of academic excellence, athletics, volunteer experience, and also by specific research areas, especially for graduate students. Many scholarships require an application, especially for high-value awards, but some will be automatically offered to eligible students, such as entrance scholarships.

Entrance Scholarships

Entrance scholarships are a good resource for academically strong students. If financing is a concern, it is worthwhile to find out if any schools in which you are interested offer entrance scholarships and if you are eligible. Remember that there may be deadlines for specific awards, so be sure to apply for the awards or for admission to your degree program as early in the year as possible.

A number of universities, such as Carleton University, the University of Manitoba, and the University of Alberta, have international student entrance scholarships available to help offset any additional tuition fees. These scholarships are often automatic, based on the eligibility criteria, which is usually a minimum GPA requirement, and require students be registered full-time.

Student Loans

If traditional financial aid options, such as scholarships and bursaries, are not a possibility, international students are also able to access traditional student loans, which have similar interest rates and repayment schedules for both international and Canadian students. Because most provincial student aid programs are restricted to Canadian citizens and permanent residents, international students will likely need to borrow from a private lending institution or a bank.

If you want to explore loans, a good place to start is the Canada Student Loan program. While this resource is available to Canadians primarily, some protected status persons, such as refugees, are also eligible.

Final Tips

A wonderful education is available at over 100 public universities across Canada, in addition to private universities. International students may have to research their financial aid options if they are not able to pay for their education on their own, but there are many resources available.

Additional Resources

Finding Canadian Education Programs and Scholarships

Study in Canada

Abigail Byle is a Graduate Programs and Admissions Assistant for the Faculty of Graduate Studies at the University of Manitoba.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of World Education Services (WES).