Why I’m leaving the land of the free

By Joel Abrahams

As many of my friends and classmates know, I am a citizen of Canada, that country above the almighty U.S, and contrary to Americans’ popular belief, Canada is not uninhabitable tundra full of toothless hockey players. I would also like to mention that we do not live in elaborate three-storey igloos or travel around on elaborate dog sleds, yet I digress.

I don’t necessarily have a desire to move back, as I’ve grown quite fond of the Golden State as well as this country itself. But what with the outgoing governator seemingly apathetic to the quality of our public universities, and the country’s economy in the crapper, college in America just seems like a downright scam.

With the UC system dominating the list of the most expensive public universities in the world, any of these schools will run you around $30,000 a year. Public universities outside California range from $25-45,000, and many private schools Tam students will be looking at can offer you the sweet deal of over $50,000 a year.

However, universities in Canada will offer a sharply decreased tuition rate to those who pledge allegiance. For instance, UC Berkeley costs an estimated $25,309 a year for a Californian resident, and $44,929 for those who reside out-of-state as well as out of the country. The University of Toronto, one of Canada’s “Canadian Ivies,” costs an estimated $12,391 for Canadian students, with extra travel costs for Canadian citizens living outside the country. International students have to fork over estimated $21,917, less than half of what most Tam students would pay to go to a UC.

An even better bonus is that most schools in Canada are far less expensive than Toronto, one of Canada’s priciest picks. Some universities in Quebec and British Columbia run under $5,000 and $10,000 for Canadian and International students respectively.

There are several reasons why school is so cheap; athletic scholarships don’t exist, meaning money that would be spent paying for star athletes to compete for the school would instead be kept by the students and their families. This explains why you will never hear how the McGill hockey team is doing, or talk about which of the star basketball players from University of British Columbia are going to the NBA draft. So if you chose the Canadian route, forget about sports. Completely.

The amount of students attending private universities is also extremely low in comparison to the US, with just eight private universities; so more money gets allocated into the public university system. Consequently, the average amount of students per school is much higher, with enrollment peaking at 75,000 students at Toronto.

Colleges across Canada offer the same types of classes and residence situations, so the typical American “College Life” in Canada is nearly identical, with one major exception. The national drinking age in Canada is 19, with the exception of the provinces of Manitoba, Alberta and Quebec, which have a drinking age of 18. My Canadian cousins (all of whom went to college in Canada) all describe this privilege with one word: awesome. Although I strongly recommend students not to decide by such a factor, students at Tam will definitely have an influence on where the class of 2011 goes to school. Because of this lowered drinking age, students are allowed more privacy, and aren’t subject to random dormitory room searches like their American counterparts. Ironic, considering this country considers itself the “land of the free.”

The biggest reason however, is the taxes. Canadians have a combined federal and provincial tax rate ranging 40 to 50 percent, leaving much less disposable income for a regular family. But once seniors graduate and move onto college, that family faces a much less daunting financial task. I understand that by most Americans’ standards, this would be called socialist. But if my family and I can save over $125,000, you can call me whatever the hell you want.

I know if I went to a private school here in the States, I’d love the opportunities at my fingertips. However, it just doesn’t make sense in terms of value. And if I could just add– Canada’s more awesome anyways.

Written by Joel Abrahams. This article originally appeared in the December 2010 issue.