Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

An affordable college option for Minnesotans: Canada December 14, 2011

MY 17-YEAR-OLD BOUNDED down the stairs Tuesday morning, uncharacteristically cheerful. He’s not a morning person. I’ve learned that the less interaction with him any time before 10 a.m., the better.

So his upbeat attitude and engaging me in conversation before 8 a.m. surprised me.

While I don’t recall his exact words, they went something like this: “You know, Mom, how I sometimes listen to Minnesota Public Radio? Well, they were talking about colleges in Canada and reciprocity with Minnesota and how much cheaper it is to go to school there.”

I could see exactly where this was leading. He wanted to apply to a Canadian college.

However, I was in no mood to hear any of this. After months of attempting to persuade him to apply to shoe-in, affordable Minnesota, Wisconsin or Dakota colleges, I didn’t want him to pursue a dead-end. We’re getting to crunch time here on college apps. (He’s applied to four out-of-state colleges, three of them highly-competitive and totally unaffordable at $40K – $55K annually for tuition, room and board. My son, BTW, is academically-gifted and scored exceptionally well on his ACT test.)

I should have heard him out. But, instead, I spouted rather ridiculous responses like: “Your dad and I don’t even have passports.” And “Do you know how much it would cost to fly to and from a Canadian college?”

He slammed out the door on his way to high school classes without even a goodbye hug. I don’t blame him. I had failed as a mother to listen to my son.

Later Tuesday morning, I checked out the MPR news story, which you can read by clicking here. In summary, Minnesota and Canada, specifically the province of Manitoba, have had a tuition reciprocity agreement for 20 years. Who knew? Not me.

"Canada is closer than Colorado," my son told me.

Tuition at a Manitoban university, for example, will cost a Minnesota student around $4,000 annually. That’s less than tuition at a Minnesota community college, state-run university or the University of Minnesota, according to the MPR article.

The most recent enrollment statistics listed on the Minnesota Office of Higher Education website show 31 Minnesotans attending post secondary institutions in Canada during the 2009-2010 school year. Click here to check out information on that website.

Will my son head north across the border to the University of Winnipeg or one of six other Manitoban colleges?

I don’t know. But it’s certainly worth investigating as he considers his college options.

All of this brings me full circle to two questions raised in recent weeks by several friends:

  • Is it even worth going to college any more?
  • Does it matter where you attend college? One friend tells me her son, who went to a state-run South Dakota university, earns just as much as co-workers who graduated from more elite and expensive private colleges.

I’ve considered these same questions.

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE on going to college? Is it worth the investment? Does attending a prestigious private college give you an employment advantage? I’d like to hear your thoughts. Please submit a comment.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling