One Voice Canada, a non-profit organisation that helps vulnerable international students, told CBC News that in cases where students wanted to leave and get a refund, colleges are pushing back and, in some cases, have been deceitful.
A report from CBC highlighted issues at Vancouver Career College and Granville College. Both institutions have been accused of misleading students and making it difficult for them to get refunds.
One student joined Granville College, enrolling in a hospitality management program, but she said her hour-long classes only lasted 10 minutes.
The student decided to withdraw 10 days after her program started. The student had reportedly paid $11,000 in tuition fees, but was offered a $900 refund by the college.
The college claimed she had only paid a portion of her tuition fees, although a receipt showed she had paid in full.
In a statement responding to these allegations, Granville College told CBC News the college has “addressed her concerns and settled this issue amicably”.
CBC spoke with another student from Punjab, India, who enrolled at Vancouver Career College for a six-month program.
The student’s classes were supposed to last four hours but soon after the course began, the class time started shrinking.
The college accepted her withdrawal, but demanded the student pay the remainder of her tuition fees, which came to $9,704.28, saying that she had taken more than 30% of the course, and so had to pay 100% of the tuition fees.
The college claimed that the refund was based on the student’s last day of attendance, June 24, not the date she requested a withdrawal a week earlier.
It also calculated the refund using the scheduled class time instead of actual instruction time, according to CBC’s report.
CBC News contacted Vancouver Career College with these allegations but was told that “due to privacy, [they] do not comment on individual student information”.
The student took the case to B.C.’s Private Training Institutions Branch, which is a part of the Ministry of Advanced Education.
The PTIB ruled in June 2022, that Vancouver Career College had “misled the complainant in relation to the number of hours of instruction provided”.
The decision meant the student did not have to pay the $9,704.28 the college claimed she owed.
“In the context of misleading expectations promoted by education agents, diminishing quality of education offerings experienced on arrival, and also general problems with immigration processing timelines, there should be no surprise that refund requests are on the rise,” immigration consultant and policy analyst Earl Blaney told The PIE News.
“In large part students are not the cause for blame”
“The decision to penalise students for such requests, by making such requests inaccessible or by levying outrageous fee penalties is misguided, in large part students are not the cause for blame.”
Blaney said that if the institution students arrived at lived up to their expectations in the first place, there would be much less demand for refund requests.
“It is clear the provincial government authorities (responsible for maintaining ‘Brand Canada’ quality through their role in curating respective provincial DLI registration lists), have standards that have lapsed well below consumer expectations of what Brand Canada should represent,” Blaney added.
The PIE understands that B.C’s Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills is aware of the concerns raised about the two institutions and that they will look further into allegations any time student protection concerns are raised.
The ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills is currently working to make sure government can respond quickly if private institutions promote or offer substandard education to students.
It plans to continue to develop protections for international students that support their fair treatment across the sector and look forward to having more to say as that work progresses.
The ministry has also developed a student-centred and sustainable strategic International Education Framework, which will be available soon.