It’s not that U.S. students or colleagues are in any way negative about Canadian opportunities,” Mr. Hawes of Fulbright Canada said. “They just don’t know about them.”
One university that is on the Americans’ radar is McGill, which is the destination for almost a quarter of all U.S. students. That interest “doesn’t just happen – it is something that we work at,” said Kathleen Massey, registrar and executive director of enrolment services at McGill University. Like most Canadian schools, McGill’s U.S. recruiting efforts are concentrated in a few regions: New York, New England, California and other parts of the West Coast, which are also the prime destinations for Canadians heading south for school.
“With alumni in the United States, these are some of the people who look to sending their children back to McGill, and I think that’s a factor,” Ms. Massey said. “We can’t underestimate reputation for any university in Canada.”
Meanwhile, at the University of Calgary, which has consistently attracted 100 to 110 U.S. students each year, the institution is now trying to double its own international enrolment by 2016, with the U.S. as one of five priority sources. The school is setting up three new alumni chapters in Silicon Valley, New York and Houston to spread the word, and creating a new regional council with representatives from U.S. businesses, consulates and government.
“I think we are [now] much more aggresive in terms of getting those students and other things moving faster in the U.S.,” said Janaka Ruwanpura, University of Calgary’s new vice-provost, international. The university hopes to land some of the scholarship students being funded to come to Canada, but also to build on shared economic interests like energy. “Certainly we are going to promote our own strength areas,” he said.
The sense of shared connections born of educational exchanges reaches beyond particular industries, however. Manny Sousa, senior vice-president of global human resources at the information management firm Open Text, hopes the country’s universities will start making an extra effort. His is a global company headquartered in Waterloo, which does its primary business in Canada and the U.S., and it is hungry for graduates like Mr. Gay, who can tap valuable networks they built while studying abroad.
“If you’ve got a student who’s gone to school in the U.S. and all of a sudden they’re working for us in Canada and they’re calling on U.S. clients and they find out you’re an alum from the same school ... there’s an automatic connection that goes along with that,” he said. “All those things, they help as glue in the relationship.”
Number of international students studying in Canada in 2012: 265,377
Number in 2002: 150,297
Increase of 76 per cent
Number of U.S. students studying in Canada in 2012: 12,128
Number in 2002: 12,771
Decrease of 5 per cent
Number of Canadians studying at U.S. universities and colleges in 2012: 26,821
Number in 2002: 26,514
Increase of 1 per cent
Annual tuition cost for an international student studying for a BA and a BSc, respectively, at McGill University in Montreal: $16,872.46, $30,691.26
Annual tuition cost (in U.S. dollars) for an international student at Michigan State University: $33,632
At Stanford University: $41,250