The most affordable Canadian universities in 2024 that won’t break the bank

affordable Canadian universities

Studying abroad can be a costly decision to make.

Tuition fees, rent, cost of living, and even student visa applications don’t come cheap.

  • According to US News & World Report, average tuition at US private colleges grew by about 4% in 2022 to just under US$40,000 per year. For a public in-state school, that cost was $10,500, a 0.8% increase for in-state students and about 1% for out-of-state students.
  • London, the QS Best Student City 2024 (and for the fifth year running), has rent prices that go up to US$2,776 per month for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre. The monthly cost of living, including groceries, transportation, utilities, and entertainment, is estimated at around US$1,366.
  • In Australia, talks of raising student visa application fees from US$497 to US$1,656 are underway. Applicants must pay this fee regardless of whether or not they secure a visa. Australia already has one of the most expensive visa application fees, second only to the UK, at a whopping US$615.

It’s no wonder that students are — and have been — looking elsewhere. In particular, Canada has always been seen favourably amongst international students for various reasons.

A 2023 report by IDP Connect, a global student recruitment firm, reveals that more than 21,000 students from 100 countries picked Canada as the most popular destination to study abroad.

With top-ranked universities, global hubs, and the opportunity to obtain Post-Graduate Work Permits (PGWP), it’s unsurprising that Canada has seen its international student population triple over the past decade.

Beyond that, the country has over 90 public institutes offering more than 15,000 programmes, with the majority being taught entirely in English. Among them, the most affordable Canadian universities boast a high quality of life and diverse local communities, set in crisp air, diverse landscapes and breathtaking natural wonders. 

most affordable Canadian universities

Toronto is the most populous city in Canada, filled with a vibrant multicultural scene alongside the country’s financial and commercial centre. Source: AFP.

A lifestyle filled with generous opportunities

Before diving into the most affordable Canadian universities, it’s worth mentioning that Canada has a great lifestyle for those making a life on their shores. 

While the cost of living may vary depending on location, international students can opt for affordable accommodation options during their stay. For those who stay on as permanent residents, the country has much more to offer.

Public schools are free for children aged five to 18. This includes children of permanent residents, work permit holders and study permit holders.

Most provinces have publicly funded healthcare plans, with some areas covering work permit holders and international students. Many essential health services are either free of charge or greatly subsidised.

Canada also offers great employment opportunities for fresh graduates or for those intending to migrate there permanently. While most Canadian companies prefer to hire locals, newcomers are welcome to volunteer or take up freelance projects, which will all count towards Canadian experience. 

Well-being and social security are also the country’s top priorities. In cases where you’ve lost your job or are unable to work for certain reasons, Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI) programme provides a source of temporary income.

If these perks sound appealing to you, applying to the most affordable Canadian universities is the perfect place to kickstart your journey:

10 most affordable Canadian universities where you won’t need to pay much to live your best life 

Note: These fees don’t include accommodation or any additional fees, so make sure you check out the university’s official site for more information, if necessary.

University of Montreal

The University of Montreal (UdeM) is one of the leading research universities in Canada, home to over 67,000 students and 2,300 professors and researchers. The university dates back to 1878, with roots running deep in Montreal, known as one of the least expensive cities to live in Canada’s Québec province.

Research is the core of UdeM – the university receives over US$650 million in research funding annually. UdeM boasts an impressive 465 research units alongside its affiliated schools, HEC Montréal and École Polytechnique de Montréal.

Tuition fees for the University of Montreal cost around US$5,520 per year.

Memorial University of Newfoundland 

Founded in 1925, Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) was established as a living memorial to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who died in the First World War. Now, it’s a public university based in St. Johns, with campuses scattered in Corner Brook, Saint Pierre, and Harlow.

The university offers certificate, diploma, undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate programmes. Tuition rates are among the lowest in Canada, coupled with generous funding packages for graduate students who require financial aid. 

Tuition fees for Memorial University of Newfoundland cost around US$8,440 a year.

most affordable canadian universities

Canadian Mennonite University is known for its agriculture programmes, which are taught uniquely on a small campus. Source: AFP.

Canadian Mennonite University

The Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) is a Christian university, well-known for its courses in biblical and theological studies. It was founded in 1999 by the Mennonite Church of Canada and is located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. 

Here, students can choose from internationally accredited programmes across diverse disciplines, catering to undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

The university also offers a short, one-year Pre-Professional Studies programme that helps students complete required courses for professional programmes not offered at CMU, such as agriculture, dentistry, education and more. Upon completion, students can apply for their desired degree in another university. 

CMU’s 3-credit-hour undergraduate course costs around US$570 to US$890, while a graduate course goes up to US$920. An international student taking a full-time course while living on-campus with the in-house meal plan can expect to pay around US$14,000 a year. 

University of Northern British Columbia

The University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) is a public university in Prince George, British Columbia. It stands out amongst its kind, offering cheap programmes, a small student-to-faculty ratio of 16:1 and excellent support services such as mental health counselling, career guidance, and academic advising. 

The university offers over 50 programmes across three faculties – arts, science, and professional studies – ranging from undergraduate to graduate levels. Despite the small size of the university and its population, it has a research income of over US$11,050,000, reflecting the institute’s reputation as one of Canada’s best small universities.

It’s one of the cheapest universities in the country due to its unique fee structure. Tuition fees are determined by the programme, with undergraduate student tuition fees starting from US$144 to US$610 per credit hour. Tuition fees cost an average of US$9,500 a year.

Brandon University

Brandon University prides itself on being Canada’s finest regional university, committed to being the primary provider of university education to high school graduates in the region. In addition to low tuition rates, they offer comprehensive financial aid packages for students too. 

The university works to provide affordable education and lifelong learning for all in Manitoba. Here, students can explore fields related to art and music, politics and sports, and more from both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Average tuition fees range from US$1,990 per year for undergraduate programmes to US$2,500 for graduate programmes. 

most affordable canadian universities

The most affordable Canadian universities have generous scholarships that will make your degree a bang for your buck. Source: AFP.

University of Guelph

The University of Guelph (U of G) is one of Canada’s oldest public universities, with roots dating back to 1964. U of G is known for its excellence in the arts and sciences and its commitment to developing exceptional thinkers and engaged citizens, coupled with a beautiful campus and a welcoming international community. 

With seven academic departments and numerous research centres, the university offers more than 90 undergraduate degrees, 48 master’s programmes, and 23 doctoral programmes. 

Tuition fees are calculated based on the academic programme, course load, cohort year, citizenship, room and meal plan selection, and parking if required. While annual tuition ranges around US$25,800, the generous scholarships make U of G one of the most affordable Canadian universities. 

Simon Fraser University

Simon Fraser University (SFU) offers excellent quality higher education at a low cost. It’s consistently ranked among Canada’s top research-intensive universities and is a world leader in research, knowledge development, and sustainability. 

Over 32,000 students attend SFU, with most students taking up undergraduate programmes across eight faculties. Students graduate with the skills they need as professionals, as well as contributing members of their communities. 

Tuition fees go up to US$25,000 per academic year, which covers roughly 10 courses over two terms. The university also offers boarding with meal plans, additional financial aid, and scholarships.

most affordable canadian universities

Many top-ranked universities in Canada offer comprehensive programmes in engineering, making the country a popular destination for budding engineers. Source: AFP.

University of Saskatchewan

University of Saskatchewan (USask) aspires to be the university the world needs. The university is one of the top research-intensive, medical doctoral universities in Canada, providing world-leading education in a world leader in areas such as water and food security, vaccine development and infectious diseases, and human, animal and environmental health.

Currently, the university is home to over 22,000 students enrolled in different undergraduate and graduate programmes. Fields include arts, engineering, science, health sciences, business administration, education, pharmacy, and many more.

Tuition fees cost around US$24,680 per year, depending on programme choice and residential status. View this chart for a full list of USask’s tuition and student fees.

University of Calgary

The University of Calgary (UCalgary) is recognised as one of the country’s top five research universities, with campuses spread across Downtown, Foothills, Spyhill and Qatar. The main campus is home to over 33,000 students, guided by top faculties with top-class research skills.

Here, students can choose from over 250 undergraduate programmes and 170 degrees across 65 graduate programmes. UCalgary also offers over 1,200 courses and 70 certificate programmes for working professionals keen on personal growth or keeping up with the changing labour market. 

Tuition fees cost around US$19,800 a semester for general programmes in arts and humanities.

most affordable canadian universities

Fun fact: Canada consistently ranks among the­ most educated countries in the­ world, with over 56% of Canadians aged 25 to 64 having completed post-secondary education. Source: AFP.

University of Regina

The University of Regina (U of R) started out as a residential high school, set up in 1911 by the Methodist Church. Now, it’s a research university providing extensive hands-on learning opportunities to over 16,000 students hailing from every corner of the globe.

U of R, as it’s fondly referred to, offers more than 120 undergraduate programs and 78 graduate programs, including many specialised programs such as police studies and public policy. They also offer extensive student financial support for both local and international students. 

Tuition fees for an eight or 12-month academic year can go up to US$18,959.