Canadians may know New York State best as the home state of New York City, but when it comes time to choose a post-secondary institution in that northeastern corner of the United States, there are myriad choices beyond the bright lights of the big city. In fact, New York State, with its total population of almost 20 million, boasts more than 500 colleges and universities.
Sixty-four of these institutions, including the University at Albany, Binghamton University , the University at Buffalo and Stony Brook University, are aligned with SUNY. SUNY, the State University of New York, is the largest public higher education state system in the United States. Twenty-four of these institutions, including City College and Brooklyn College, are aligned with CUNY. CUNY, the City University of New York, is the largest public higher education urban system in the United States.
Most of these institutions – whether they are SUNY or CUNY, large or small, urban or rural, or private, public, non-sectarian, religiously affiliated, ivy league, technical, comprehensive or community – eagerly accept and welcome Canadian students. A few of them, in fact, have programs and outreach specifically geared towards their neighbours to the north, a fact that explains why New York State is one of the top five states in terms of Canadian student enrollment.
Among the more than 6,000 international students studying in New York State at any given time, a few hundred are usually Canadians who, for various reasons, opt for an American education. Some of these students come to New York schools for a specific program or field of study. Others come to New York for the cultural experience, the sports, the school size, the internship and career opportunities, and in some cases, even the proximity to home.
Determining exactly which New York institutions of higher learning to apply to and, if accepted, to attend, can be an onerous task for young Canadians, especially since most high school guidance counselling is focused on applications to and acceptance into Canadian post-secondary institutions. Of course, the first step for any Canadian student considering studying in New York is to carefully explore the academic offerings at the various universities and colleges in order to determine which ones offer the education and opportunities that interest and inspire them. Once they have figured that out, the next step is to consider other criteria as well. What is the campus culture like? Does the campus offer clubs and extracurriculars of interest to the student? Is the campus located in a quiet rural environment, or in the hub of a noisy, busy city? Is the college or university affordable – specifically, how much is the international student tuition, and are financial aid or scholarships available to Canadian students? And, of course, what are the admissions requirements?
Most New York State four-year colleges employ an on-line application process, and most, like most campuses across the United States, require SAT or ACT test scores be submitted with student admission applications. These standardized tests measure reading, math, science and writing, and can be written at testing sites across Canada throughout any given year.
There are, however, a handful of private New York universities that are SAT optional, meaning that they do not demand standardized test scores as part of the application process. These exceptions to the rule include the College of Westchester, a for-profit institution in White Plains; Wells College in Aurora; Utica College in the central part of the state; the elite liberal arts Bard College; and Elmira College in upstate New York.
Whether it is because of this exemption, or because of its proximity to southern Ontario – it is just over a four-hour drive to Toronto – Elmira College, according to College Factual, is ranked 221 with Canadian students out of a total of 1,043 colleges and universities, making it one of the most popular New York academic destinations for Canadian undergrads. Every fall, about two dozen Canadian students begin their post-secondary studies at Elmira, where tuition for international students, including Canadians, is about $40,000. Although tuition is high, every student is considered for a merit-based scholarship upon acceptance to the college, and every out-of-state student, including all Canadians, who visits the college before January 31 of the year they intend to enroll, automatically receives a Visit Award of $8,000 upon acceptance.
Canadian students pursue a variety courses of study at Elmira, among them information technology, criminal justice and political science. Like all Elmira students, they are required to complete 240 hours of career experience or internships before graduation, in such places as the State Legislature and Capitol Hill – a requirement that makes them more employable in a an increasingly competitive job market. Social life is a little different at Elmira than at other colleges. Undergrad students are required to live on campus for all four years of their study, and a variety of clubs, dances and other social events have replaced Greek life on campus.
There are many other options for Canadians, and especially Ontarians and Quebecers, wishing to study in New York and, at the same time, stay close to home. The State University of New York at Albany, also known as the University at Albany, SUNY Albany and UAlbany is one of the more popular options, recruiting about 25 Canadian students each year.
“We are actually only a few hours’ drive from much of Ontario and Quebec,” says John D. Pomeroy, UAlbany’s Director of International Admissions and Recruitment. “And being so close, we give Canadian students options that may not be available in many Canadian schools.”
These options, he continues, include a broad range of academic majors, teaching from a global perspective, Division One sports, and internship opportunities in the state capital.
“Applying as a Canadian student is not that much different than applying as an American,” Pomeroy explains. “The only additional piece we need for an applicant from Canada is a bank statement from their family showing that they can support them to attend one years’ worth of schooling in the USA. This financial piece is required for the immigration component of studying in the USA.”
Tuition at SUNY Albany is $21,550 a year for Canadian students, which is the same amount that out-of-state Americans pay to attend. Canadian students also are typically considered for $5,000 annual merit scholarships upon acceptance. Once enrolled, students can choose from a variety of programs, including more than 30 academic degrees In the STEM disciplines that qualify recipients for a three-year work permit in the USA upon graduation.
Students wishing to study at a larger US institution, while remaining close Canada, also have a couple of solid choices. The University of Buffalo, entrenched in the state’s second largest city, is rated among the top 50 public universities in the US, according to U.S. News and World Report. International student tuition at the SUNY affiliated university, which straddles the Canada-US border, is currently $24,180, and merit scholarships beginning at $2,000 a year are regularly awarded to out-of-state students.
Then again, students who might consider the University at Buffalo too big should look closely at neighbouring D’Youville College, also located in Buffalo. Within walking distance to the Peace Bridge connecting Canada to the United States, and close to beautiful parks, hiking trails and the world famous Niagara Falls, D’Youville – which has no application fee – is probably the New York University that enjoys the closest relationship with Canada.
In fact, many of D’Youville’s undergraduate programs were developed specifically with Canadians in mind. These include programs, according to the college’s website, that “meet or exceed the requirements need(ed) to take the licensing examination in Canada” to become physician assistants, physical therapists and dieticians. As well, myriad Ontario teachers have graduated from the college’s Canadian Teacher Certification program, and returned their home province to teach.
Significantly, Canadian students at D’Youville College are eligible for a 20% discount on net tuition, and all applicants, regardless of where they come from, are eligible upon acceptance for merit scholarships of up to $74,000 over the course of four years.
Hofstra University is another small New York liberal arts college, but unlike D’Youville, the private college is far from the international border and much closer to the Big Apple. According to the Hofstra Admissions Office, the school offers a unique experience that “emphasizes a curriculum which molds all students into critical thinkers through a traditional liberal arts education, while also strongly focusing on career preparation through an array of professional programs and state of the art facilities.”
With 145 programs and fewer than 12,000 students on campus, the school maintains an average class size of 21 students and a 13:1 student-to-teacher ratio. About nine percent of Hofstra’s students come from outside the country, including Canada. Tuition is about $44,000 per academic year, but international students are eligible for merit-based scholarships that are as high as $28,000 annually. This is typical of many private schools in New York – tuition is higher than at public universities, but there are more scholarships available to international students.
Hofstra graduates traditionally enjoy great success finding jobs or graduate school opportunities, and more than half the students, according to the Admissions Office, accept job opportunities before they graduate. Hofstra also offers a best of both worlds dynamic. The university is located on a quiet, sprawling suburban campus in Long Island, but it is just a 40-minute train ride to New York City. NYC, of course, abounds with diverse internship opportunities in finance, fashion, IT, manufacturing, media and performing arts, and unparalleled recreational and cultural experiences.
And yet, a 40-minute train ride still might not be close enough for those Canadian students who have always dreamed of studying and living in what many consider to be the greatest city in the world.
Those students need not worry! New York City, after all, is home to more than 100 post-secondary universities and colleges, almost all of which accept international students. These institutions, scattered through the city’s five boroughs, offer diverse programs, courses and learning opportunities, and have varied entrance requirements and financial obligations. The huge City College of New York, or CUNY, is the most affordable of these options. At CUNY, international tuition is the same as out-of-state tuition, and although it varies among CUNY’s 25 campuses, it is considerably lower than the tuition at New York’s private institutions. For example, undergrad tuition at most CUNY colleges, including the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Hunter College, is less than $14,000 a year.
Of course, for some Canadian students ‘The Big Apple’ is their destination of choice because it is the North American centre of arts, culture and music, and their dream school is one that offers the chance of a career in the studio or on or behind the stage or screen. The Tisch School of Arts and the Steinhardt School at NYU, as well as Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music, are just four of the post-secondary NYC institutions that offer highly regarded programs in music, voice, drama or dance – all of which happen to be among the city and the state’s major industries. The competition for acceptance into these schools is fierce, and their application process usually entails auditions, interviews, recommendations and portfolio submissions. Standardized test scores, however, usually are not required.
Whether Canadian students pursue studies in the arts, liberal arts, science or technology, they will find New York City to be exhilarating, entertaining, expensive and, at times, overwhelming. But they will never be at a loss for what to do. NYC is home to myriad ethnic neighbourhoods, museums, galleries, theatres, parks, clubs and concert venues. It is home to the United Nations, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, Central Park, NASDAQ, and millions of people, many of them international students, and many of them Canadians – eager for an American education and eager for a uniquely American experience.
By Sharon Chisvin