After Trump's win, more U.S. students consider university in Canada

For some college-bound students distressed by the U.S. election of Donald Trump, Canadian universities are calling.

University website traffic soars in Canada post-U.S. election

Traditionally, Canada hasn't been a hugely popular college destination for Americans, but that could be changing. (Getty Images)

For some college-bound students distressed by the U.S. election of Donald Trump, Canadian universities are calling.

Universities from Quebec to British Columbia say applications and website traffic from the United States have been surging since Trump's victory Nov. 8. Although many Canadian schools had also ramped up recruiting in the U.S. recently, some say dismay over the presidential election has fuelled a spike in interest beyond their expectations.

Lara Godoff, a 17-year-old from Napa, Calif., said she scrapped any notion of staying in the U.S. the day after the election. Among other concerns, Godoff, a Democrat, said she fears the Republic president-elect's administration will ease enforcement of federal rules against sexual assault, making campuses less safe for women.

Godoff had applied to one university in Canada, but added three more as safety schools after the election.

"If we live in a country where so many people could elect Donald Trump, then that's not a country I want to live in," she said.

Applications from U.S. students to the University of Toronto jumped 70 per cent compared with this time last year, while several other Canadian schools have seen increases of 20 per cent or more. Nearly 10,000 people in the U.S. visited the university's "Future Students" website the day after the election, up from about 1,000 the day before the election.

U.S. applications to McMaster University in Hamilton are up 34 per cent so far.

"We can't ignore the election results, but I think there are other strengths that are attracting students to the university, as well," said Jennifer Peterman, senior manager of global undergraduate recruitment at McGill University in Montreal. Students are also drawn by the school's diversity and Canada's affordable cost of living, she said.

As of Nov. 16, McGill saw a 30-per-cent increase from U.S. applicants and a 16-per-cent increase from other international students.

Meanwhile, UBC recorded a 26-per-cent increase in U.S. applicants in the weeks after the election compared with the same period in 2015, along with a 40-per-cent spike in web traffic to its main website. 

Big spike on the Prairies

On the Prairies, the University of Manitoba has only seen a slight increase in admissions from American students, which a spokesperson attributed to the weak Canadian dollar rather than to Trump moving into the White House.

The University of Winnipeg (U of W) noticed spikes in traffic to its "Future Students" (11.3 per cent) and "Future International Students" (37 per cent) webpages in the four weeks after the election.

Of the traffic on the international students page for that time frame, visits increased by 69.3 per cent from the U.S., 70.4 per cent were from India, and 77.7 per cent were from Nigeria, a spokesperson with the U of W told CBC News in a statement.

On a proportional basis, those figures pale in comparison to the wave of American visitors to the University of Saskatchewan's website, which saw a 392 per cent rise in traffic from U.S. IP addresses to its undergraduate admissions page, and a 191 per cent increase to its graduate student program website, compared to the week before the election.

In the U.S., officials at some universities say it's clear Trump's election is tilting enrolment patterns. Some recruiters say foreign students are avoiding the U.S. amid worries about safety and deportation, opting for Canada or Australia instead.

And Canadian schools have noticed growing interest from China, India and Pakistan, too.

'Campaign frightened people'

"I think everybody in international education is a little uneasy, in part because some of the rhetoric in the campaign frightened people overseas," said Stephen Dunnett, vice-provost for international education at the University at Buffalo.

"It's going to be perhaps a little bit rocky for a couple of years."

Although it's too early to say how many U.S. students will enrol in Canada next fall, some universities expect to see more Americans on campus based on the flurry of interest.

Traditionally, Canada hasn't been a hugely popular university destination for Americans. In 2014, it drew about 9,000 students from the U.S., compared with 57,000 from China, according to the Canadian Bureau for International Education.

But as Canada's population ages, it is increasingly looking outside its borders for students. In 2014, the government announced plans to double the country's number of foreign students by 2022. Many of the nation's 125 universities have responded by stepping up recruiting in the U.S., promising students an international experience close to home.

In Washington this month, the University of Toronto hosted a panel on the election and asked local alumni to bring prospective students, hoping some might apply.

Among those at the event was 17-year-old Rebekah Robinson of Baltimore, who had already visited the school and plans to enrol. She joked with her parents about escaping to Canada to flee Trump but said she sees that as just a bonus.

"I really liked the school," she said. "I liked the programs they offered, and I thought it was a great fit for me, so the president and the election just kind of played a small factor in it."

Other universities have sent more recruiters to the U.S. and are building ties with high schools, but officials say they aren't trying to exploit any post-election fallout.

With files from AP's Krysta Fauria and CBC's Karen Pauls