If you’re an international student in Canada, or if you’re thinking of attending a university, college, technical school, or other post-secondary institution in Canada, here’s a curious fact:

Almost triple the number of Chinese students attend universities in Canada, while more than 5 times the number of students from India attend colleges in Canada. Look at the following charts:

International Students in Canada - Top 2 Source Countries

Note that India and China accounted for 53% of international students at all levels in Canada in 2017. If you exclude Quebec (which has a large number of students from France as well as some from other francophone countries) the figure would be even higher.

So, what’s going on here? It seems that students from India are overwhelming choosing more technical or vocational post-secondary programs when they decide to study in Canada, while Chinese students tend more towards academic and/or professional programs that universities in Canada offer.

Keep in mind that this is a broad generalization and that with the large numbers of students from India and China, you will have students from both countries studying at every type of educational institution and at every level – from primary through secondary and on up to post-graduate studies at university – in Canada. However, this data does indicate that students from India are clearly more interested in technical and vocational programs while those from China are more likely to attend more academic programs of study at universities.

There may be another factor at work as well.


Tuition Costs

While tuition in Canada is still reasonable compared to the USA and the UK, international students in Canada do pay significantly higher fees than native-born or permanent residents do. And community colleges are usually – but not always – a cheaper option than universities.

In other words, because of China’s enormous economic gains over the past several decades, Chinese students coming to Canada may be able to afford higher tuition fees than their counterparts from India. That means students from India are likely more cost-conscious and more geared to completing a post-secondary program that gives them employable skills that they can use immediately in the job market – as is the case with most technical and vocational post-secondary diplomas or degrees.


Start Looking for Bargains

This means it’s time to start looking for bargains in Canada’s educational system. This really is a must if you’re an international student, seeing you’re stuck paying much higher fees than citizens and PRs. It’s your right, nay, even your duty one could say, to seek out where your hard-earned cash gets the most bang for the buck.

We’ll start with the lowest-cost Community Colleges in Canada; ones that offer a wide range of degrees and diplomas, but which also save you money when paying tuition. Because it’s a painful truth that what keeps most international students away from a successful application to a Canadian post-secondary institution is not their lack of academic preparation. Far from it. The hurdle that keeps you out of Canada’s educational system is your inability to come up with enough money to pay tuition and living expenses. And while there are some scholarships available, this is not a realistic option for the great majority of students – whether they be foreign, permanent residents, or native-born.


Top 6 Affordable Community Colleges in Canada for International Students


6. Lethbridge College

A prank at Lethbridge College dave_7 from Lethbridge, Canada [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

A prank at Lethbridge College by dave_7 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Located in Lethbridge, Alberta, this was one of the first community colleges to offer courses in Canada back in 1957, a full decade before most other colleges were created. While it offers courses in agricultural technology and welding and policing, it also has some more tech-oriented courses that offer fascinating career opportunities. Consider these programs:


Geomatics Engineering Technology:

This program combines the age-old profession of surveying with high-tech areas like GPS systems, satellite image analysis, and geographic imaging systems (GIS). From engineering fundamentals to surveying, mapping, and data collection techniques to high-precision location data, you’ll be trained for jobs like mining surveying, industrial locations, and working with drone-based systems. You might even end up helping collect the data in order for your team to help design a drone-delivery system for Amazon! As well, it offers a path to work in environmental consulting, land-planning agencies and other government agencies, as well as in law enforcement. It’s a 2-year diploma program with tuition for international students pegged at under $13,000 the first year and around $15,000 the 2nd year.


Wind Turbine Technician:

This 1-year certificate course is for people who aren’t afraid of heights (like 200 feet up on a really windy day) and have an aptitude for mechanics. You will be trained to international certificate standards in wind turbines, helping you to write the BZEE certificate of competency exams as well as even preparing you to write the first-period electrician provincial (Alberta) apprenticeship exam. This is a hands-on course with special emphasis on safety, for obvious reasons. Tuition for international students runs at over $18,000 for the full year – about $9,000 a semester. 


5. Algonquin College

Algonquin College by Ajadams94 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

by Ajadams94 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

With a main campus in Ottawa and 2 campuses in the Ottawa Valley in Pembroke and in beautiful Perth, Algonquin College provides the benefits of both small-town Ontario and the nation’s capital area with its high-tech firms and its numerous healthcare facilities and government buildings nestled in green spaces. It’s a convenient lifestyle, with nothing too far away and rush hour - yes, Ottawa definitely has a rush hour - nothing like what commuters in Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver have to deal with on a daily basis. It is hardly surprising that along with areas like technology and engineering, Algonquin also has an emphasis on health sciences. Here’s a couple of interesting programs that might appeal to international students who are looking for a degree that provides good job opportunities at a reasonable cost.


Practical Nursing – FTN (foreign trained nurse):

If you were trained as a nurse abroad and wish to be registered in Ontario to work as a practical nurse, this is the program you’ve been looking for. In other words, over the course of 2 years of study, you are trained and given the knowledge to write the Canadian Practical Nurse Registration Examination. Not only that, you also are eligible (as in the bridge training for Camosun College) for the pathway from Practical Nurse to Registered Nurse offered in conjunction with the University of Ottawa. After doing the bridge program you then enter a Registered Nurse Bachelor program. The tuition is a little higher for this program, coming in at a little over $ 9,000 per term but a more job-oriented course is hard to find. Especially one with a strong demand that will only grow over time as Canada’s healthcare system copes to keep up with a wave of retiring baby boomers.


Biotechnology – Advanced (Co-op):

From cell biology to biochemistry, from microbiology to bioinformatics and statistics, this program prepares you to work as a lab technician or an analyst in areas like health and agriculture, as well as medical device testing or pharmaceutical testing. It’s a rigorous 3-year program with lots of lab work combined with theory. Tuition is a little more accessible with costs per term averaging between $7,500 and $8,000. Remember there are 6 terms in total over the 3 years so your total tuition will be higher than in 2- or 1-year diplomas.


4. Sheridan College

Sheridan Mississauga Campus by MMA | MHO [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

by MMA | MHO / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

While Sheridan has everything from nursing to engineering to tool and die making, one of the areas it focuses on is media and digital design. In a world filled with digital television and social media, these are cutting edge jobs in a growing and relevant field. The college is located in Oakville (a separate city just to the west of Toronto on the shores of Lake Ontario), Brampton (a suburb to the north of Toronto), and Mississauga (a major city immediately to the west of Toronto). So, if you live in the GTA, Sheridan is accessible by public transport (GO or TTC + the local transit system) or car. Not only that, it has an International Centre with professional support staff to help you with applying and any other aspect of student life as an international student, including study permits and visas. Let’s see some of the media and design courses they have to offer.


Digital Creature Animation – Technical Direction:

This course is a graduate certificate course lasting 3 semesters (which can be done in 1 year or 18 months), with computer animation, technical animation, and advanced rigging and modelling techniques, all in order to give you the skills to create digital characters for movies, television, advertising or any other purpose. The total tuition cost for all 3 semesters for international students is just over $24,000 which works out to about $8,000 per term. There are cheaper courses but given the huge industry demand - the course was designed in conjunction with industry and your professors are all industry veterans - for these skills, your job future will be assured. Another excellent investment for people interested in drama and digital characters.


Game Level Design:

This 3-semester course that awards a graduate certificate is where game designers, coders, and artists work together and improve their collaborative skills as they learn how to produce video games. A game level designer student designer learns 2D and 3D designs as well as: story & scripting; cinematography & sound; multi-player systems; game documentation & play testing. Wow. Want to be a game design industry professional? This is the place. The tuition fees for international students are under $25,000 for all 3 terms which works out to a little over $8,000 per term.


3. Lambton College

Based in Sarnia, Ontario, which is located on the border with Michigan, USA, it also has campuses in Mississauga and Toronto. While Sarnia is a little out of the way, with campuses in Mississauga and Toronto, the college is easily accessible to anyone in the GTA. Perhaps not as well known as colleges like Sheridan or Algonquin, it nonetheless offers a good range of courses with some pretty innovative selections, including the following two:


Data Analytics for Business Decision Making:

Big data is key to almost any company or organization’s ability to respond to a rapidly changing marketplace. From data scientists to data analysts, the jobs that help companies deal with enormous amounts of data are a growing area of the Canadian and world economy. This graduate certificate course provides you with the skills to collect, analyze, and manipulate data. This is the kind of course that specifies the hardware and software you will need on the device you will bring to your classes. Big data is serious business in other words. The course is given on a part-time basis and a University Degree or College Diploma is required in order to be eligible. Fees come to about $7,000 in tuition for international students, so that’s about $14,000 per year. That’s about the going rate at most colleges in Canada, although it’s a little lower than some colleges.


Esports Management:

Do you know how much a video-game tournament winner can earn nowadays if it’s a major international tournament and involves juicy sponsorship contracts? A. Lot. Of. Money. Even 7 figures ($1 million and up) on occasion. Video-gaming – or Esports – is now big business. And that requires qualified people to help manage this explosive new market. At Lambton, they’ve had the foresight to put together a program that includes in-depth material on hardware and software design; game design; live streaming; and even the history of Esports. As a graduate of this program you’ll be able to go into careers like Esports marketing, management, and promotion, or as an event coordinator or coach or pro player maybe! You’ll likely end up doing jobs that haven’t really been invented yet – or have been around for a short while. You know what a streamer is, don’t you? While clearly the world of professional sports offers plenty of examples from which to draw lessons, this is literally a whole new world, or if you like, level. You will need a post-secondary diploma or degree to qualify for this program which lasts 1 year and provides you with a graduate certificate. Total tuition fees for the 1-year course are just under $14,000.


2. Camosun College

Camosun College by Michal Klajban [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

by Michal Klajban / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Located in Victoria, BC on Vancouver Island, this community college offers a nice range of technical and practical diplomas with the additional feature of bridge courses that can be added after a diploma in order to get you into a university level degree program at some point in the future. For example:


Civil Engineering Technology:

This 2-year (4 terms) diploma offers you great job opportunities in areas like infrastructure projects or water treatment projects with the possibility of an 8-month bridge course that gets you into 3rd year of a full civil engineering program at UBC in Vancouver. Tuition for international students costs about $14,000 per year with the additional cost of an internship or work term adding about $1,500 per term. Considering you can earn over $50,000 a year working as a Civil Engineering Technology graduate with some years experience, that’s a good investment.


Computer Networks Electronics Technician:

This 8- to 12-month certificate provides you with the knowledge and practical experience to install, repair, and maintain servers, computer networks and electronic systems. The program lasts for either 8 months or 12 months if you choose an optional 3rd term, and internships and co-op options also available. Tuition for international students is the same per term at a little over $7,000 but you can get a certificate for under $15,000 or an advanced certificate (if you take the 3rd term of the program) for around $22,000. And a job in the field is practically guaranteed.


1. Confederation College

Streetlight at Confederation College by Ryan Hodnett [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

by Ryan Hodnett / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Named for the then-upcoming 100th anniversary of confederation (1967) the college opened as a trade school in Thunder Bay, at the far western edge of the Great Lakes. This is North Ontario and if you don’t know what beautiful Neil Young song starts with the words “there is a town in North Ontario, with dream, comfort, and memory to spare” then you’ll have to cut a winter’s worth of firewood as penance. The main campus is still in Thunder Bay, but Confederation College also has campuses in Dryden, Geraldton, Kenora, Marathon, and Fort Frances. One of the areas the college’s founders wanted to focus on was aviation. This was soon after the Avro Arrow’s tragic cancellation by the Diefenbaker government in the late ‘50s and the importance of aviation was still clearly felt by educators and government officials. Always dreamed of working in the aviation industry? Try these courses:


Aviation Technician – Aircraft Maintenance:

This is a 2-year diploma course that gets you ready to take the Transport Canada Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) license exam. The course is pragmatic and hands-on with the focus on gaining experience at maintaining and trouble-shooting complex aircraft systems. Aircraft construction, electronics, airframe systems, rotary-wing maintenance (helicopters) and structural repair are some of the areas you’ll be working on. Your tuition fees as an international student will be a little over $17,000 per year (under $9,000 a semester). That should get you a job with anyone from regional airlines to major airlines, to what are called fixed-base operators.


Aviation – Flight Management:

This 21-month or 2-and-a-half-year advanced diploma program is for people who dream of being a pilot. Pilot training begins almost immediately with 3 available flight simulators and Thunder Bay International Airport as the staging platforms for much of the course, with 13 types of aircraft available for training in. The employment opportunities range from regional airlines to major airlines, from medevac pilots to even flying for the Canadian Armed Forces (assuming you meet the remaining eligibility requirements to join the CAF). You might even end up being a flight instructor. As an international student, your tuition will come to over $15,000 a year with some additional expenses because of the cost of the program. You should budget around $20,000 a year to be sure. Remember training pilots is not cheap and this is quite a reasonable cost compared to other flight programs. But once you graduate, the sky’s literally the limit!


We’ve just touched on the enormous range of courses in Canada’s Colleges. And there are literally over a hundred colleges to choose from across the country. So if you’re perhaps someone from South Asia who’s looking at obtaining job-ready education and training at a fraction of the cost of most professional programs at Canada’s universities, then maybe a College diploma, degree, or certificate is just the ticket you’re looking for. And as always, being an international student in Canada is a great first step towards finding a job and applying for permanent residence.


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