Tuition and Living Expenses for Foreign Students in Canada

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Canadian tuition is very reasonable at most post-secondary schools in Canada. If you’re a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada. However, international students pay around 3 times the tuition that a Canadian or permanent resident pays. Is that fair? Perhaps not.

Is it reasonable? That depends on what you compare it to. Compared to tuition at major American or British universities, tuition levels at Canadian universities and colleges are reasonable. They’re not a screaming bargain, but they’re a clear savings for most international students.

So, let’s dig down into the numbers and see how much you might end up paying as an international student studying in Canada. Remember, however, the trade-off is between price and quality, as it is for any service you’re considering buying.

Cheap but Useful

In our blog, Top 10 Cheapest Colleges in Canada for 2021, we find you ten deals that give you useful, focused post-secondary degrees, diplomas, or certificates like:

  • Aerospace Engineering Technician,
  • Forestry Technician,
  • Pharmacy Technician,
  • Video Design and Production,
  • And many, many more.

Sound interesting? Click on the link and see some of the countless offerings Canada’s post-secondary educational system has for you.  This aren’t top-ranked universities like U of Toronto, but they’ll give you a degree, diploma, or certificate that will lead to good-paying job.

Famous and Expensive

On the other side of the tracks, we have the pricey options where the tuition comes close to what you pay at a top American or British school. Yes, some of them have world-class reputations, but be sure your program of study is worth the cost you’ll end up paying. We’ve titled this blog Top 10 Worst Universities for International Students in Canada, so click on the link to see whether you think these expensive options are worth it.



The following table has 13 of Canada’s largest cities. Most schools you enroll in will be in or near one of these cities, so this should give you a pretty good idea of your basic monthly living expenses for off-campus living.

Toronto $1,900 $630 $160 $50 107
Vancouver $2,000 $700 $110 $50 104
Calgary $1,250 $600 $110 $50 101
Ottawa $1,450 $660 $130 $50 101
Edmonton $1,180 $610 $110 $50 100
Halifax $1,400 $650 $85 $50 98
St. John’s $800 $680 $106 $50 96
Montreal $1,300 $680 $90 $50 93
Winnipeg $1,075 $580 $105 $50 93
Victoria $1,500 $690 $95 $50 N/A
Waterloo $1,450 $620 $90 $50 N/A

There’s a couple of things to keep in mind when looking at this table:

  • The first 3 columns (Rent, Groceries, Transportation) are from Numbeo, a crowd-source site that gives prices for a whole range of goods and services for locations around the world.
  • The Index column is from Statistics Canada and is an overall index measuring the cost of living in these cities. It does not have data for Victoria and Waterloo but in each case, their amounts are similar to (if a little lower than) Vancouver and Toronto (respectively).
  • The Cellphone column is from Immigroup’s in-depth look at cellphone plans found here. You can get a Canada-wide basic text and calls for less than CAD$ 30, but we used as a proxy the Fido $60 plan with unlimited international text, picture, and video messages which is in fact CAD$50 a month when you bring your own phone. Remember to go to Immigroup’s cellphone blog to get all the details on mobile plans.
  • In other words, while the first four columns give a reasonably accurate picture for an off-campus student’s living expenses, they don’t include all sorts of other expenses that are included in Statistics Canada’s overall index which instead gives you a broad view of the cost-of-living in that city.
  • Finally, the rental price is for a 1-bedroom centrally located. So, you can save money by living further from the city centre or you can share like many students do and thus lower your rental costs. For smaller cities like Winnipeg, Halifax, St. John’s, and Ottawa, we averaged the cost of a central 1-bedroom with the cost of a 1-bedroom rental in the suburbs as the commute is much easier than in cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, or even Calgary.


Health Insurance & International Students

Before we get to the specifics of fees and other university-based expenses beyond your tuition costs, we should look at what you’ll have to spend on healthcare. While this will depend on what province/territory you’ll be studying in and what specific post-secondary school you’ll be attending, a basic range of health insurance costs is $600 – $900 per year for basic and preventative healthcare services. As we’ll show you, you’ll have options where you can spend a little more to make sure you have a more complete coverage, so you should budget around CAD 1,000 per year to be safe.

Let’s go through Canada’s main provinces, coast to coast, and highlight what some of the top universities offer in each of those provinces.


As of January 1, 2020, all international students enrolled in a post-secondary program 6 months or more in duration at a school in BC must pay a monthly premium of CAD$ 75 to be enrolled in MSPMedical Services Plan, the province’s healthcare plan.  You have to apply as soon as you arrive in BC for your studies. Applying to MSP generally involves a waiting period of 3 months before you get your health card, so you must also take out private health insurance for at least your first 3 months in BC.

You may wish to take out private health insurance for the duration of your studies in Canada to supplement your MSP coverage for things like dental care, for example. Please remember however, that enrollment in MSP is mandatory, so your private insurance would be a supplement.

  • Go here to apply online to MSP. Scroll down until you see:

If you wish to instead submit a paper application, please note the above link to download, print, and mail a paper application form to the indicated address.

Universities in BC may also automatically enroll you in a private health care plan to cover the MSP waiting period.

  • BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology) uses as their private insurance provider for example. Go here for information on
  • UBC uses iMED as a private provider to cover MSP waiting periods. Go here for more information.



The Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan (ACHIP) is available to international students if they are in a 12-month or longer study program with a 12-month study permit or if they are in a 3-month to 12-month study program and submit a written letter expressing their intent to reside in Alberta for 12 months.

Go here for information on how to apply to ACHIP.

Please note you should consider getting supplemental private insurance. For example, the University of Alberta recommends private insurance to cover things like: dental care, eye care, prescriptions and some medical devices. Go here for more information.



International students need to provide proof of enrollment at a DLI in Saskatchewan as well as a valid study permit to apply for a health card from eHealth. Go here for more information on how to apply. Please note that it can take 2 or more months to receive your health card so you should take out private insurance for at least that period of time.

When you apply online to eHealth, be sure to have:

  • Your study permit or a copy of
  • Proof of residency in Saskatchewan – utility bill, lease agreement, or official letter from your university showing your residence is on campus, etc.
  • Confirmation of Enrollment Letter
  • A copy of the photo page and personal data page of your passport



As of September 1, 2018, international students in Manitoba have no longer been covered by the Manitoba Health, Seniors, and Active Living plan (MHSAL). They are now covered by what is known as the Manitoba International Student Health Plan (MISHP).

  • The benefits carrier is Manitoba Blue Cross. Go here to see their webpage with information for students at Manitoba’s 3 main universities.
  • The administrator for MISHP is Studentcare. Go here to see their webpage.
  • Please note that this is a private health insurance plan with an annual cost of CAD$ 1,032.



In Ontario, public universities will offer you the University Health Insurance Plan (UHIP) while colleges and private universities offer other health plans. All involve payments – either through university fees to cover the plan or through private health insurance. Fees for UHIP run up to CAD$ 1,000 per year.

  • At the University of Waterloo, there are 2 health plans: UHIP (done through Sunlife Financial) and the supplemental plan – WUSA/GSA Health and Dental Plan. You have to enroll in UHIP and then you can choose the other if you wish. Both plans have fees.
  • At the University of Toronto, UHIP is also mandatory. For dental, eyecare, and prescription drugs you should consider purchasing supplemental health insurance.



You have access to RAMQ – Quebec’s health care system – if you are an international student from one of the following countries that have signed reciprocity agreements with the province: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Romania, and Sweden.

Otherwise, you will be enrolled in a group healthcare plan by your school which means you have to pay an annual fee.

In either case, international students should consider purchasing supplemental coverage for dental, eyecare and prescription drugs.


Nova Scotia

First-year international students in Nova Scotia must purchase what is called an International Student’s Emergency Medical Insurance Plan to cover their first year of school. The cost is about CAD$650. Once they have been a resident for 12 or more months in the province – that is when they start their second year – they will be eligible for membership in the province’s health insurance plan – as long as they are not out of the province for more than 31 days during their first year in Nova Scotia.

  • Once you are eligible at the start of your 2nd year and you obtain your MSI (Nova Scotia Health Insurance) Card, you can then enroll in the Student Health and Dental Plan.


Newfoundland & Labrador

Memorial University automatically enrolls all international students in the Foreign Health Insurance Plan. The provider is which also provides health insurance to international students in other provinces in Canada. The cost is currently CAD$ 261.59 per semester. So, the cost adds up to a little over CAD$ 520 per academic year of two semesters.

According to Newfoundland’s provincial government, international students can also apply for a MCP (Medical Care Plan) card. International students need the following documentation to apply for an MCP card:

  • A study permit with a validity period of at least 1 year
  • A valid passport
  • An enrollment letter from your university
  • Go here for more information.



Residence fees

Let’s move from UBC on the west coast all the way to Memorial University in St. John’s Newfoundland & Labrador to see some typical monthly costs of living on-campus in a university residence hall.

UBC $1,300 to over $2,000 $620 – $1,000
U of A $980 to around $1,700 $500 + other fees
U of Manitoba $1,100 to $2,000 w/ meals N/A
U of Waterloo $750 to $920 N/A
U of Toronto $1,400 to $2,270 N/A
McGill University $1,270 to $1,475* N/A
Dalhousie University $1,070 to $1,240 N/A
Memorial University $650 to $ $1,050 N/A

*McGill residents have to use a mandatory meal plan that costs $5,475 per year paid in 2 installments.

Other fees

For remaining student fees as well as textbooks (which can cost you up to $1,000 for all your required texts unless you buy them second hand) you should budget around $2,000 per year although fees and books at places like U of Toronto can run up to around $2,500 per year.

Summing up, for residence costs and all additional fees (NOT including tuition) and sundry living expenses it is estimated you should budget around $15,500 for an academic year of 8 months.

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