Nightly News | April 24, 2013
>>> the numbers are staggering. the total amount of student loans owed went over a trillion dollar mark late last year, surpassing total credit card debt in this country for the first time. more and more american families are finding a solution to the high cost of higher ed but looking to our north. our chief education correspondent rehema ellis has our report.
>> reporter: eric andriesen applied to several american colleges but ended up at a school north of the u.s. border.
>> the deciding factor for mcgill was tuition.
>> reporter: 6% of the stay tuned body at mcgill is american and it is growing. the number has gone up 50% in a decade. many are trying to avoid mounting debt facing american students. at schools like the university of chicago and new york university , annual tuition tops $40,000, far above their canadian counterparts like the university of winnipeg and mcgill . raise your hand if the cost of tuition was a deciding factor when making a decision about coming to mcgill in canada ?
>> i get four years at mcgill for a year at a u.s. college . it makes this decision easy.
>> there are three girls in our family. we are all attending university now. money is definitely a factor.
>> i'm paying less than i would pay to go to my state school sthrks two-thirds of students graduate from american university carrying more than $25,000 in debt. 9% default on student loan payments within two years.
>> the biggest price of going to school in the united states is tuition. it's astronomical compared to canada .
>> reporter: american students can use 529 college savings, u.s. student loans , even apply for scholarships at schools in canada . the application process is simpler here than in the united states . with canadian universities, there is typically less emphasis on recommendations, essays and interviews.
>> admission for most undergraduate programs are based on grades and s.a.t.s.
>> i'm coming out with minimal debt. it brightens the prospects of the future for me.
>> reporter: americans studying in canada , using a passport to a more affordable college degree . rehema ellis, nbc news, montreal.