• Memorial University of Newfoundland takes the top spot with a 76 out of 100 cost-effectiveness score
  • Brandon University takes second place, with some of the cheapest tuition fees
  • York University ranks third with affordable living costs and competitive financial aid 

Going to college is a big decision, both personally and financially, and prospective university students are faced with a lot of information when looking at their options. And while most students will just consider the educational rank of universities, it’s important to consider other monetary factors, like the cost of living. 

That is why we decided to investigate Canada’s most cost-effective colleges, ranking each university out of 100, according to which has the lowest tuition fees, highest graduation rate, lowest cost of living, and the number and value of scholarships.

Canada’s 10 most cost-effective universities

RankUniversityScore (/100)
1Memorial University of Newfoundland76.00
2Brandon University75.46
3York University66.01
4Simon Fraser University64.83
5University of Manitoba62.65
6Université de Sherbrooke62.62
7University of Saskatchewan61.49
8Université de Moncton60.98
9University of Regina60.61
10Concordia University60.00

Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, is in first place, with a cost-effectiveness score of 76. MUN’s minimum tuition fees are the nation’s lowest at $2,760, $1,905, and $3,222 for Canadian undergraduate, postgraduate, and international students, respectively. Key cost of living measures ranked among the country’s cheapest, including rent and public transportation. However, Memorial University offers standard financial aid and a slightly below-average graduation rate of 65.5%.

Brandon University follows closely in second, scoring 75.46 out of 100. Brandon offers some of the cheapest tuition fees in the country, ranking in the top five for undergraduates and top ten for postgraduates. Groceries, utility bills, rent, and transport costs are among the most affordable nationwide. Brandon also scores well for financial aid, with the number and median value of student scholarships.

York University, Toronto, is third, scoring 66 out of 100. Postgraduates enjoy Canada’s most affordable tuition fees, with undergrad tuition in the top ten cheapest. Living costs, including groceries, mobile and internet, taxi fares, and rent, are some of the most inexpensive. YorkU offers competitive financial aid, scoring ninth for the number of available scholarships.

Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, is fourth, scoring 64.83. Tuition fees, especially for postgraduates, are some of the most reasonable. The number of scholarships offered is higher than other institutions, ranking 13th. Graduation rates are on par with the average, at 69.1%. While rent is some of the highest-priced, utility bills and mobile and internet costs are among the most economical. 

University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, is fifth, scoring 62.65. Undergraduate tuition fees are some of the lowest, with postgrads paying below average. Rent, utility bills, transport, and leisure costs also received high scores. However, its scholarships are slightly lacking against other universities.

Université de Sherbrooke, Quebec, ranks sixth with a score of 62.62. Its undergraduates enjoy some of the lowest minimum tuition fees. Its graduation rates are second-strongest in the nation, with nearly nine in ten (88.2%) students receiving a degree within seven years. Rent, leisure, grocery, and transport costs are some of the most reasonable.

The University of Saskatchewan is seventh, scoring 61.49. Local and foreign postgraduate fees are among the top five most reasonable. Public transit and rent costs are below average. 

Universite de Moncton, Quebec, is eighth, scoring 60.98. It has the cheapest undergraduate fees for foreign students in the country and ranks among the top ten foreign and local postgrads. Monthly transport, rent, utility bills, and leisure costs are also highly affordable compared to other universities. 

University of Regina, Saskatchewan, takes ninth place, scoring 60.61. It scores particularly high for postgraduate fees, as well as basic expenses such as leisure, transit, and rent. Renting outside the city center is most affordable in the country, with inner-city center apartments ranking fourth cheapest.

Concordia University, Montreal, ranks tenth, scoring 60 out of 100. Minimum tuition fees for local post and undergraduate students rank as the second most affordable. Utility bills are also lowest nationwide, with mobile and internet costs ranking among the top five most inexpensive. 



  1. Lowest average tuition fees (Source: Universities Canada) 
  2. Highest graduation rate (Source: MacLean’s Education) 
  3. Lowest cost of living in each city (Source: Numbeo)
  4. Median value of and most scholarships available (Source: Schoolfinder)


Data was sourced from the links above for each Canadian university. Due to the availability of data, 45 universities were considered in the ranking.

Factors were min-maxed scaled from 0-10 prior to indexing. The table below shows the total weightings for each category of factors included in the index. An overall index ranking was generated using all of the indicators with their corresponding weightings. 

Undergrad min fee local10.00
Undergrad max fee local7.50
Undergrad min fee foreign10.00
Undergrad max fee foreign7.50
Postgrad min fee local10.00
Postgrad max fee local7.50
Postgrad min fee foreign10.00
Postgrad max fee foreign7.50
Graduation rate (100)5.00
Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant1.00
McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal)1.00
Milk (regular), (1 liter)1.00
Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g)1.00
Rice (white), (1kg)1.00
Eggs (regular) (12)1.00
Local Cheese (1kg)1.00
Chicken Fillets (1kg)1.00
Beef Round (1kg) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat)1.00
Apples (1kg)1.00
Banana (1kg)1.00
Oranges (1kg)1.00
Tomato (1kg)1.00
Potato (1kg)1.00
Onion (1kg)1.00
Lettuce (1 head)1.00
Water (1.5 liter bottle)1.00
One-way Ticket (Local Transport)1.00
Monthly Pass (Regular Price)1.00
Taxi Start (Normal Tariff)1.00
Taxi 1km (Normal Tariff)1.00
Basic (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage) for 85m2 Apartment1.00
Mobile Phone Monthly Plan with Calls and 10GB+ Data1.00
Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)1.00
Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult1.00
Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat1.00
1 Pair of Jeans (Levis 501 Or Similar)1.00
1 Summer Dress in a Chain Store (Zara, H&M, …)1.00
1 Pair of Nike Running Shoes (Mid-Range)1.00
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre1.00
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre1.00
Number of scholarships5.00
Median scholarship price3.00