On Campus

Border? What border? along the 49th parallel

Some U.S. universities offer Canadians domestic tuition, but keep full fees for most out-of-state Americans

Inside Higher Ed, one of two high quality higher education publications in the United States, reported last week on a “new” trend in the Prairies along the United States/Canada border: the granting of domestic/in-state tuition rates to students crossing the border.

First, some context. In the United States, most students crossing state borders are charged significantly higher tuition fees than students staying within their own state borders. While the United States federal government has more influence and provides significantly more direction to universities in exchange for public funds, the “provincial” boundaries in the United States are significantly stronger compared to those in Canada.

The concept that a student from Ontario would be treated any differently than a student from British Columbia at a B.C. university seems absurd to us, but this is taken for granted every day in the United States.

With the exception of Quebec and Nova Scotia, provincial governments don’t care where you come from. As long as you’re from Canada they will charge you the same rates as “in-province” students. (Quebec charges out-of-province students on-par with the average tuition rate in Canada. Nova Scotia charges out-of-province students the highest domestic rate in the country.)

This makes the decision by some United States institutions to grant “in-state” tuition rates to students from nearby states and provinces significant. They are going against the conventions of the American higher education system. While Americans love to play out their national patriotism, they are truly a union of individual states with all the higher education border barriers one would expect of a sovereign nation-state.

In terms of many Canadian students taking up the offer, that remains to be seen. While students can bring Canada Student Loans with them, some provinces do not grant loans to students paying their tuition fees to a foreign institution.

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