MONTREAL, Canada -- Eric Andreasen is a college student from Portland, Maine, who has his sights set on a career working for a lawmaker in the nation's capital.
But even though the political science major plans to go straight to Capitol Hill when he graduates this spring, he will have a degree from a Canadian college -- McGill University in Montreal.
Back when Andreasen, 23, was deciding where to go to college, he applied to a dozen U.S. schools. When it came time to choose, he narrowed it down to either George Washington in D.C. or McGill just north of the border.
McGill offered him a full undergraduate university education for what it would have cost for just one year at G.W.
"When the financial packages came in, it was a no-brainer for me," Andreasen said.
Indeed, with strained family budgets and the soaring cost of tuition at American schools, the coveted university degree often comes with just too much debt for many students.
About one in six people who owe money on their student loans is in default. Such a debt load is a harsh reality that is forcing a growing number of young people to look north to Canada for an education they can better afford.
Six percent of McGill's student body is American, and the ranks are growing. The number of U.S. students at Canadian colleges rose 50 percent in a decade, and now about 10,000 Americans attend Canadian colleges, according to the Institute for College Access & Success.
That institute also says graduates from an American university can expect, on average, to carry more than $26,000 in debt. And about 9 percent of those grads default on student loans within two years.
The largest cost of going to school in the United States is the tuition, which is astronomical compared to Canada. At schools such as the University of Chicago and New York University, the annual tuition tops $40,000, far above their Canadian counterparts, which benefit from a tradition of robust government support.
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