Release Date: June 5, 2002
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- As many as 75,000 Canadian high school graduates could be migrating to the United States next year to fill seats in college and university classrooms unavailable to them in their homeland.
The students are expected to be turned away in droves by Canadian universities unable to accommodate next year's surge in the number of high school graduates from the Ontario Province. The anticipated increase was created by the provincial government's decision in 1997 to shorten Ontario's traditional five-year high school program to four years, thus producing a graduating class of grades 12 and 13 in 2003 and eliminating grade 13 thereafter.
As a result, an estimated 290,000 students will graduate from Ontario high schools in 2003 -- nearly twice as many as this year. The numbers are stressing an already space-strapped Canadian higher-education system. And without increased government funding, many of the major universities are unwilling to build new space or increase operating costs for a one-time enrollment phenomenon.
To meet the demand already created by Ontario's monster-sized class of 2003, the University at Buffalo is among U.S. institutions gearing up to recruit the most talented of the students, called "double-cohort" students in Canada.
"There are hundreds of "A-minus" and "B" students who won't be able to be admitted by a Canadian university; there just isn't room for them," explains Joseph J. Hindrawan, UB assistant vice provost and director of international enrollment management. "This situation is creating a tremendous amount of anxiety among Canadian students and their parents."
Contributing to the anxiety is Canada's hierarchical higher-education system, which differentiates between the prestige of attending a university or a college. According to Hindrawan, many students who don't get into a Canadian university will prefer to attend a U.S. university rather than one of their local colleges.
To recruit those students left out in the cold and to ease parental fears, Hindrawan and Steven L. Shaw, UB's director of international admissions, have stepped up their attendance at college fairs in Canada -- as have representatives from several other U.S. institutions. In the fall, when the college-recruiting season gets into full swing, they plan a direct-mail campaign targeting the double-cohort students and have established a Web site -- http://wings.buffalo.edu/intadmit/canadian -- addressing the needs and concerns of Canadian students.
Although UB has not set an enrollment goal for Canadian students, Hindrawan and Shaw expect to easily eclipse the 2001-02 enrollment of 129 Canadian undergraduates, with most of the students accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. An influx of English-speaking Canadian students also will help UB diversify its population of 3,000 -- mostly Asian -- international students.
"There's a socio-political motivation to our efforts, as well," says Shaw. "This is an opportunity for us to build better relations with our neighbors to the north and help them through this difficult period."
Shaw and Hindrawan anticipate that UB and other SUNY institutions -- such as SUNY College at Oswego, SUNY College at Plattsburgh and SUNY College at Oneonta -- should be particularly attractive to Canadian students because of the schools' proximity to Ontario and because of their relatively inexpensive tuition -- an important consideration given the poor U.S. exchange rate for the Canadian dollar, which puts Canadians at a disadvantage. But they also expect some private institutions to get into the game by offering discounted tuition to Canadians. (New York State law prohibits SUNY institutions from discounting tuition.)
"Because of the cost issue, most of the double-cohort students who come to the U.S. probably will be from financially well-off families," Hindrawan says.
The price of tuition, however, is not the only hurdle for many Canadians considering enrollment in U.S. institutions, Hindrawan adds. The cohort issue is fraught with parental worries and nationalistic angst. Many Canadians, especially Canadians born and bred in the country, dislike the prospect of sending their children to a non-Canadian university and would rather keep them closer to home.
And because the issue is so politically charged throughout Ontario, many high-school guidance counselors are reluctant to explicitly recommend U.S. institutions to students and parents.
"Most parents strongly prefer their child's first degree be from a Canadian university," says Shaw. "They don't mind if they get a graduate degree elsewhere, but there is a lot of prestige associated with attending Canadian universities.
"Canadian immigrants, however, don't have those preferences," he adds. "For them, having to enroll in a U.S. university won't be an issue."
In the long run, Hindrawan and Shaw hope that recruitment of cohort students will help change perceptions in Canada regarding attending U.S. institutions, making it easier for UB and other U.S. universities to recruit more Canadian students in the future.