Deciding on a college is a big, life-changing decision. It will affect the next few years of your life and your ability to find a job and a successful networking circle.
Luckily, Canada has many top universities – 32 that are some of the best in the world. But not all Canadian schools are winners. Some are smaller, have poorer graduation rates, and lacklustre reputations.
Here are my picks of the ten worst universities in Canada – see if you agree with my choices.
With hundreds of universities throughout Canada, it isn’t easy to claim one is worse than the other. Instead, I’ve used specific criteria to determine which colleges aren’t up to par.
- Reputation. To start, how the public sees the university and current and former students play a significant role in determining if they should go on my list.
- Programs offered. Some colleges don’t have the resources to offer a variety of degrees and programs, but that will affect their ranking. Less variety usually means fewer students attending and faculty with limited funds.
- Cost. Cost is usually a double-edged sword. While not all expensive schools are better, usually, if you pay more in tuition, students and faculty have additional resources available to them. However, the flip side is – you’re paying more tuition, which means more money you need to come up with just to get an education.
- Graduation rate. Are the students attending these universities graduating? If not, maybe that’s a red flag and a reason you should stay away.
Based on the above criteria, here are my top ten worst universities in Canada.
1. University of Winnipeg
Graduation Rate: 44.2%
Cost: Anywhere from $3,000 – $4,000 for tuition and fees per semester for full-time students
The University of Winnipeg has one of the lowest graduation rates in all of Canada, easily topping my list. The percentage reflects full-time students that started their first year in 2007 and graduated by 2014.
The University does have a graduate program but offers fewer courses than its counterparts. Instead, students apply because it’s an undergraduate place of study.
Because of its low graduation rate, it doesn’t have the best reputation.
In fact, some attribute the low numbers to its easy admission process, which makes students unprepared for the vigorous course load they may face in their first few years on campus.
However, there are positives about the University. It has around 10,000 students, which means a smaller class size and more one-on-one time with professors and advisors.
Its downtown location means lots more to do if you’re looking for a positive social/school balance.
2. Brandon University
Graduation Rate: 50.9%
Cost: Ranging from $3,500 and up, depending on your area of study and course load.
Brandon University is a liberal arts college located in Brandon, Manitoba. With only around 3,000 students attending the school, class sizes are often small. The University isn’t easy to get into – only around a 47.5% acceptance rate.
However, its poor graduation rate and reputation are the reasons it made the list. BU consistently ranks on many “worst of” lists because of its graduation rate and low per-student budget spending ratio.
The BU staff doesn’t focus on these detriments. Instead, they point out the positives, like small class sizes, additional library resources for students, and affordable tuition.
The school offers six academic programs, including a graduate one, but most students are there for undergraduate studies.
3. Mount Saint Vincent University
Graduation Rate: 54%
Cost: $8,500 – $10,000 for full time students
Located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Mount Saint Vincent University has almost 4,500 students.
Although the number of students is low, the University keeps students up to date with the latest technologies with its 16 research labs – a huge number considering its population size.
The school is still on the list because of its low graduation rate and high cost. One semester of taking classes without living on campus can set you back almost $10,000.
Considering the graduation rate is so low, that’s a whole lot of debt to take on, especially if you don’t make it to the finish line.
Perhaps the low graduation rate is a result of the school’s very high acceptance rate – around 93%. With numbers like those, you could argue Admissions is bringing in students unprepared for a higher level of education.
4. St. Thomas University
Graduation Rate: 54.4%
Cost: Tuition depends on your major but ranges from $8,500 – $10,000 per academic year.
St. Thomas is a Catholic, liberal arts college located in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
The school only offers undergraduate degrees in arts, education, and social work. It’s mainly on the list because of its limited offerings and no graduate program.
There are only just over 2,000 students attending the school, making it very small and appealing to a subset of students looking for low teacher-to-student ratios and limited class sizes.
The graduation rate isn’t that great either – at only 54.4%. In addition, tuition is much higher than other universities on the list with similar enrollment sizes.
5. University of Moncton
Graduation Rate: 56.9%
Cost: Depending on your major, tuition per semester can range from $3,500 on up.
Located in New Brunswick, the University of Moncton is the largest French-speaking college outside of Quebec.
That’s a big draw if you’re fluent in the language or come from a French-speaking country. Otherwise, it cuts down on the enrollment numbers and doesn’t cater to many students within Canada – one of the main reasons it’s on my list.
The University also has a pretty dismal graduation rate of 56.9%.
It isn’t all bad news, though. The school has many undergraduate degree programs, as well as graduate and part-time students.
They also have three campuses, making it convenient for more students to attend.
6. Cape Breton University
Cost: $8,500 – $10,000 per academic year.
Located on picturesque Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Cape Breton University is home to 5,000 students.
Most of the students are a part of the school’s undergraduate program that includes studies in nursing, business, arts, education and health, as well as science and technology.
While the University does provide on-campus housing, a recent influx of international students made it difficult for the school to keep up with the demand, one of the downsides to CBU.
In addition, the location of the University is why some students might want to think twice.
The weather on the island is cool in the summer and wet and windy during the long winter months.
7. Laurentian University
Graduation Rate: 71%
Cost: Around $6,000 per academic year
Laurentian University, a lynchpin of Sudbury and Northern Ontario, recently fell on significantly hard times. It was always a well-esteemed University, with high graduation rates and a large selection of undergraduate programs.
The University filed for protection instead of receiving a financial bailout from the provincial government.
The school is currently close to agreeing on a plan to pay back its creditors and start a rebuilding period.
A rebuild is necessary since enrollment and applications are down from 2021 – almost 44%.
8. Nipissing University
Graduation Rate: 85%
Cost: $8,500 – $10,000 per academic year
Located in North Bay, Ontario, Nipissing University generally has a solid reputation.
However, there are some downsides to the school. For starters, students complain that North Bay is a small town with limited recreation, nightlife, and public transportation.
It’s also a smaller school and recently faced a significant dip in enrollment for the past school year. The University accounts for the decline due to changes within the Nursing program.
However, they state they have many strong academic programs and only feel optimistic about the future.
Like many other colleges, they closely followed the financial debacle at Laurentian University.
However, although Nipissing forecasted small surpluses for the next few years, the COVID-19 pandemic wiped those away when international students curtailed their travel plans.
Although surpluses aren’t the reality, Nipissing stands on solid financial ground and has ways to increase revenues in the years to come.
9. University of Northern British Columbia
Graduation Rate: 56.5%
Cost: $3,000 and up, depending on your area of study
The main campus resides in Prince George, British Columbia, with an enrollment of around 4,000 students. The school is on my list because there are limited majors and a low graduation rate.
In addition, Prince George isn’t the most bustling college town, and students might not have as many recreational activities or nightlife options as in other cities. Another downfall is that the weather is cold and snowy.
10. St. Mary’s University
Graduation Rate: 53.1%
Cost: $8,500 – $10,000 per academic year
The biggest reason St. Mary’s University, located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is on the list reflects its low graduation rate – only 53.1%.
The school has over 6,000 students in undergraduate and graduate programs. The smaller size is both positive and negative.
Fewer students mean smaller class sizes and more one-on-one time with the professor.
However, it also means there aren’t as many resources as larger universities with bigger budgets.
Advice for Prospective Students to Find a Good University
Choosing the right university is a significant decision that can impact your future career prospects, personal growth, and overall life trajectory. Here are a few general tips to weed out universities that may not meet your standards:
- Research Accreditation: Make sure the university is recognized and accredited by a reputable educational body. This ensures that the institution meets certain standards of quality and that your degree will be acknowledged by employers and other educational institutions.
- Consider Student-to-Faculty Ratio: A high ratio might mean less personalized attention and larger class sizes, which could impact the quality of your learning experience.
- Look at Employment Rates: Check the university’s post-graduation employment rates in your field of interest. This can give you an idea of how well the university prepares its students for the job market.
- Evaluate Student Support Services: Consider the availability of services like academic advising, career counselling, mental health resources, and financial aid.
- Check Reputation and Rankings: While not the sole factor to consider, university rankings can give a broad sense of a school’s reputation.
- Reviews and Feedback: Look for reviews from current students or alumni. This can provide first-hand insights into the strengths and weaknesses of the institution.
- Programs and Courses: Make sure the university offers the program and courses that interest you. An institution might be highly ranked overall but may not excel in your specific area of interest.
- Financial Factors: Look at the tuition, fees, cost of living, and the availability of financial aid. A school might not be a good choice if it will leave you with a significant amount of debt.
Which university is considered to be a tier 2 university in Canada?
The concept of “tier 1” and “tier 2” universities isn’t as commonly used in Canada as it is in some other countries, like the United States.
Typically, the designation of tier 1 or tier 2 is not an official categorization but rather a perception based on factors like academic reputation, research output, faculty qualifications, resources, and student selectivity.
However, some universities traditionally considered among the top, or “tier 1”, in Canada often include the University of Toronto, McGill University, and the University of British Columbia, due to their high rankings in international university rankings, robust research output, and strong reputation across a variety of disciplines.
Consequently, universities that are well-regarded but might not have the same level of international recognition or research output might be colloquially referred to as “tier 2”. This might include universities like Carleton University, Ryerson University, the University of Regina, or the University of Manitoba.
The schools listed above aren’t necessarily bad, they’re just not as good as others. Like most big decisions in life, you’ll have to do your own research and decide what’s best for you.
If you’re looking for ways to save for college, check out my favourite RESP plans.