A few weeks ago, we took a look at the costs of the American Ivy league schools and concluded that it would likely cost upwards of $200,000 for an undergraduate degree at these prestigious American schools.

This naturally led me to wonder how much does it cost to attend Canadian Ivy league schools?

Here is the first year cost of a Canadian Ivy League bachelor of arts or science degree at the respective Ivy league schools, current as of the 2012-2013 school year.

According to Globe and Mail the Ivy League schools in Canada are considered to be:

University of Toronto

  • Annual Tuition: $5, 400 (domestic) $32,075 (International)
  • Room, board, & Meals: $10,972 – $12,000
  • Misc Expenses (books and insurance): $2,000

University of Toronto has a strong dose of brand power and is nestled in the heart of Toronto, Canada’s largest city.

McGill University

  • Annual Tuition: $6,112.20 (domestic), $14,815.80 (international)
  • Room, Board, & Meals: ranges from $6,724 to $10,123 (more if you live in housing that has mandatory meal plans)
  • Misc Expenses (books and insurance): $2,200

McGill is world renowned, pretty, and is in chic and beautiful Montreal.


  • Annual Tuition: $5,460 (domestic) $20,601 (International)
  • Room, Board, & Meals: $11,742.53
  • Misc Expenses (books and insurance): $1,900

Queens has old-world charm and is known to churn out smart students.

University of British Columbia

  • Annual Tuition: $4,700.40 (domestic) $22,621.50 (international)
  • Room, board, & Meals: $5,576.00 (private bath)
  • Misc Expenses (books and insurance): $1,800

The room and board in this scenario for UBC is Totem Park, which is where most first year undergraduate students stay. Most people don’t stay here for subsequent undergraduate years.


  • Annual Tuition: $5,500 (domestic) $18,700 (international)
  • Room, board, & Meals: $6,512-$9,662 (shared room)
  • Misc Expenses (books and insurance): $2,000

Waterloo is considered the Co-Op capital and churns out the only optometry graduates in Canada. The room and board option chosen was Mackenzie King, a single, four person suite (ahhh roommates!).

University of Alberta

  • Annual Tuition: $5,194.80 (domestic) $18,057 (international)
  • Room, board, & Meals: $6,822 (shared room)
  • Misc Expenses (books and insurance): $2,400

Alberta has money. A friend of mine was recently offered a generous multi-thousand dollar scholarship for a graduate program- this likely would not have happened here in B.C. for her.

McMaster University

  • Annual Tuition: $6,590 (domestic for 30 units), $20,966 (international)
  • Room, board, & Meals: $7,880
  • Misc Expenses (books and insurance): $1,900

Known to be the leader in multidisciplinary education in Canada. ‘Nuff said.

Universtiy of Western Ontario

  • Annual Tuition: $5,681 (domestic), $18,113 (international)
  • Room, Board, & Meals: average $9,900 to $11,400
  • Misc Expenses (books and insurance): around $2,200

University of Western Ontario is a consistent top performer in the Canadian University Report Student Survey.

Ivy League Schmivy League?

Canadian Ivy league schools pale in comparison to Ivy league schools in the United States. However, as was discussed in the comments from the United States Ivy league schools post, many Ivy league schools have a hefty and generous endowment fund so many students who are accepted into these schools don’t have to pay the posted tuition rate.

I didn’t know that University of British Columbia was considered a Canadian Ivy school. When I went to school there, it certainly didn’t seem like it and I don’t know if the quality of education I received there was really that prestigious and amazing.

That being said, I wasn’t a graduate student at the University of British Columbia. Most of these Canadian Ivy League schools are part of the Group of 10, or “G10”. They are the top leading research intensive universities in Canada, which the top research income producer being University of Toronto, at $878,725,000 in annual income.

At the end of the day, Canadians are quite lucky to have such heavily subsidized world-class education (although some would argue that we pay for it heavily through our taxes). Although Canadian Ivy league schools are prestigious in their own right, the American Ivy league schools still have exponentially more prestige associated with their names than this list of Canadian Ivy league schools. Not sure why this is so, perhaps it’s because we all know that Ivy leagues in the United States costs a lot of money and are difficult to get into.

Did you go to a Canadian Ivy league school? Do you think it gave you more opportunity than a non-Ivy league Canadian school?

About the Author: Clare is a 20-something who lives in beautiful (but expensive) British Columbia and has been working on her frugal living skills and fighting lifestyle inflation. She works to expand her DIY investment knowledge and hopes to enjoy financial independence one day. She enjoys reading personal finance books, freelance writing, but not so much arithmetic.

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It’s actually “University of Waterloo” not “Waterloo” and “Queens” is “Queen’s University”. But I digress.

I thought this post was rather hard on Canadian universities. “Exponentially more prestige”? Really? Reputation where, and among whom? (I’m not being sarcastic — I’m just wondering if these schools with “exponentially more prestige” are put on a pedestal outside of North America of if that’s just our perception.)

Hyperbole aside, Canadian universities have internationally reknowned programs in many fields, like UW’s computer science program. It might surprise the OP to know that international students choose Canadian universities over U.S. ones for good reason.

At the end of the day, what mattered to me was not whether I attended “Harvard North”, but whether I chose one of the best quality programs in my field and I got a good job.


The bottom line on schools is it’s the quality of the student, not the school that determines their capabilities when they graduate. However, more prestigious schools will naturally attract the high quality (aptitude) students. But keep in mind that highly capable people often choose their school on factors other than prestige.

I did both my undergrad and graduate degrees in Engineering at McMaster and I echo that I would not use the term “Ivy League” to describe Mac. Since “Ivy” generally refers to prestige and research income, there is no school in Canada that compares to Princeton, Harvard, etc. And across the pond, we’ve got nothing to compare to Oxford, Cambridge, etc.

U of T is probably the most “prestigious” in Canada, but if you visit another country, not one is going to crap their pants over your UofT degree, unlike when you meed someone from Harvard.

Canadian Ivy League Schools. That made me laugh.

Our most prestigious school, U of T is closer to U of Minnesota, not Columbia.

Yes, a Queen’s MBA is prestigious… in Canada… but its nothing special in the states. Nothing like a Harvard MBA.

Same with Yale Law versus any Canadian law degree.

Let’s not kid ourselves.

Compare with U of Connecticut or something closer…

I sort of view Ivy League schools as the designer labels of academia. Are they the best quality? Not necessarily, but the name is sure to impress. Besides, “college” and “university” are different in the U.K. and U.S. — we aren’t even comparing apples to apples here.

I have no doubt that Harvard and Yale are great schools, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over not having attended them :) I’m grateful for the educational opportunities I’ve had — not everyone gets a chance to go to university.

i go to UBC. I’ve had profs who teach at Ivy league schools in the U.S. I am confident the education level is similar to Ivy league schools in the U.S. I think the reason why big (Ivy) Canadian schools dont’ have a reputation such as Harvard’s is due to something else. Maybe poor branding

Ridiculous. There is no “Ivy League” in Canadian Universities. There is not even an equivalent system of private Universities with huge endowments to pay fantastic researchers who are, largely, terrible teachers.

Why bother with these silly labels.

Isn’t tuition largely based upon the program studied? I went to Waterloo and studied computer science and remember paying a lot more for my undergraduate education than my friends who were enrolled in the Arts departments. Some of that had to do with whether or not the program was deregulated or not.

@Beth- Sorry about the University of Waterloo vs Waterloo, Beth! :) I appreciate your summary about how it’s more important to choose a program what is well known, rather than the school.

@Steve- Good point- I would certainly not “crap my pants” if I met someone who went to UT… Now Harvard, on the other hand… ;)

@Goldberg @bob- I found the term interesting too, that the Globe and Mail would consider these comparable to the real Ivy Leagues.

@Elizabeth- yes- I am grateful for the opportunity we get- to be able to go to school for a heavily subsidized rate.

It’s only marginally about the potential for a “better” education. So much of the cost and hype is about the name associated with your degree. Your MBA from Harvard is just another MBA, but it’s from *Harvard*, and that name alone carries a tremendous amount of weight with future employers and contacts. Not just for the perceived notion of a better education, but because of the potential contacts/friends you have from there that all likely have very important and powerful jobs.
Ultimately, the value of the education is just a small part of the equation… it’s who your kids rub shoulders with that matters most in what they achieve post university. (not that there is any certainty to any of this, only increasing the odds) As the old adage goes: It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know. And it’s so absolutely true. The rich are no smarter and no better educated than the middle class… they are just better connected. It’s all about the connections in life. And that, if for no other reason, is why Harvard, et al, trumps the others.

Though it always depends on how good the student is, the ranking of the university will definitely help him in getting a good job. Consider a 3.5 GPA from a school like Harvard and a 4.0 GPA from a normal school like IIT, Chicago.

As Serlock said… People talk about learning and quality of education… as if universities were about that… they aren`t.

You can learn everything by yourself just picking up the books and reading it, discussing it with like minded people, etc.

It`s about the degree. That piece of paper. These few words on your resume. And the people you remain friends with after graduation.

Also Ivy schools have an elitist culture… meaning you are educated to think grads are better than everyone else and should support each other by giving each other opportunities before others.

Even if they aren`t from the same graduation class and have never met…

That elitist culture does not exist in any Canadian universities. Our elite goes to the state. Again, comparing with a sample of mid-size public US schools would be an interesting read.

I did an undergraduate science degree at McGill. My best friend went to Harvard. McGill’s exams ended in early May so I used to visit my friend at Harvard and audit his classes.

McGill’s classes were similar to Harvard’s, except the Harvard professors were Nobel Prize winners (not necessarily better teachers, but definitely more famous).

I remember travelling in Europe, staying at youth hostels . McGill did have a very good reputation with other American/European students – one person compared McGill to the Stanford of the north.

I think the quality of education of the Canadian Ivy’s would be similar to the American Ivy’s. However, as the other comments have noted, the Canadian schools do not have the same prestige.

Would you get a better job opportunity with a Harvard degree? – yes.
Would you perform better than someone from a Canadian Ivy – I doubt it.

It is nice to compare tuition costs now vs a few years ago, I am glad I stayed home for my 4-year undergrad.

An MBA today is just a commodity (Athabasca or distance ed vs U of T).

In the Times Higher Education rankings, there are 3 Canadian universities in the top 30… only the US and the UK have more. That ranking weighs reputation very heavily, and Canadian universities are less well known, so we might be even better than we look on paper.
So I don’t feel too bad about the “Ivy” label. That said, the Canadian approach is much more about educating large numbers of people. Partly as a result, we have fewer super-amazing universities, but we also have less appalling crap, especially compared to the US. If my kids were choosing between a mid-range Canadian school and a mid-range American one, I’d definitely encourage them to stay in Canada (even if the costs were equal).

@Tony- Thanks for sharing your experience sitting in on a Harvard class.

@Steve- Me too- I’m glad as well. My annual cost was about 50% of these numbers. An MBA is essentially an opportunity for you to network. I wonder if a distance ed MBA would provide the same benefits?

@Gerard- Thanks for the stats from Times Higher Education rankings. I’d definitely do the same thing if I had a kid- encourage them to go to a mid-range Canadian school.

All these labels are in the eye of the beholder. I’m a graduate of two of the schools mentioned in this post (one for undergrad, one for graduate), and I don’t think that my education would have been any better or worse had I gone to a ‘non-Ivy League’ school in Canada. My employment experience since school has ended is that employers don’t care where you went to school for the most part as long as you have a degree. To be honest, there are some schools on this list that you couldn’t pay me to go to. Its not about the school, its about what you do at the school when you’re there.

American universities are probably far better than those in Canada because they have an objective way of admitting students;namely the SAT exam, which ensure that the very best are admitted.

Unlike in Canada where students are admitted based on grossly inflated secondary school marks .
The same applies with graduate programs in both countries, whilst most US universities require prospective students to take some form of standardized test such as the GRE, GMAT etc, no such thing is required for the most part for graduate programs in Canada.
Instead, Canadian universities make it way too easy for students with Canadian undergraduate degrees to secure places at their schools by insisting on outrageously high undergraduate GPAs which are only found in places like Canada and the US, where graduating with a GPA of 70% and above is the rule rather than the exception, unike what obtains in much of the rest of the world. This also ensures that prospective graduate students from other parts of the world are effectively screened out and this is probably one of the reasons Canadian universities are not in the league of US varsities

Iola, not sure where you’re getting your information but the school I went to for graduate work didn’t just look at marks – they looked at experience, interests, fit with the department (i.e. whom you want to work with) etc. I knew people who had much higher marks than I did who didn’t get in. I also knew a lot of international students in computers and the sciences.

I do agree that marks are way too inflated (I’m a former high school teacher). But I doubt that marks are keeping international students out of Canadian schools. Funding… well, that’s another story!

There is an extensive applicants of students who wishes to get in yet don’t have the finances. While their grades play an important role in the qualification process there are other considerations to look into which is why I think that many with high marks did not get in.

American and Canadian University are very expensive compared to Europe public ones, but if I considerate some Private Institute,the price is the same as Ivy League.

However I believe that if you can attend them, they’re worth every single dollars you spend.

I don’t know if UBC is an IVY league school or not but I am a Finance PhD Student at UBC/Sauder and it is by far the most prestigious finance research school in Canada and in North America (top 20). Many don’t know about this, but finance research at Sauder is quite impressive.