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Canada: protests after Québec colleges seek creditor protection

Indian students in various parts of Canada are protesting after more than 1,000 lost their tuition fees when three private Québec colleges sought creditor protection.

Students protested on February 13 in Brampton, Ontario.

According to Statistics Canada, the average undergraduate tuition in the country is $33,623

The demonstrators are seeking to raise awareness of a range of issues facing students from India – including a shortage of housing and financial struggles.

Earlier in February, dozens of students held a protest in Brampton, Ontario, in support of their colleagues in Québec and garner support. They chanted, “We are here to seek justice and we won’t stop till we get justice.”

The three Québec colleges entered creditor protection just weeks after demanding that students pay their tuition in advance. The institutions are M College in Montreal, CDE College in Sherbrooke and CCSQ, which has campuses in Longueuil and Sherbrooke. Students from India represent 95% of the 1,117 students at the three colleges. Rising Phoenix International, an associated recruiting firm based in Montreal, also asked for creditor protection in a court filing on January 7.

Manpreet Kaur deposited $14,000 in tuition for M College and was waiting for her Early Childhood Education courses to start.

“It smacks of a scam”

“But on January 6, students got an email about the college going bankrupt. It smacks of a scam,” she the told the Canadian Bazaar news. She had already earned a master’s in computer science before coming to Canada.

The Indian High Commission in Ottawa is warning students to verify the credentials of institutions before making tuition payments. Indeed, there is a huge difference between publicly funded colleges and universities and private for-profit educational institutions. This distinction is not always clear to Indian students who sign up for programs while still in their home country.

“Please demand certificate of recognition by Canadian/ provincial government from the institutions and verify that the institution selected is included in the list of designated learning institutions published on the government of Canada website.

“Students should not make any payments or reveal their personal information to any unverified person/ institution offering students visa on payment,” the High Commission urged students.

 

“Brand Education Canada will be impacted by this in the short and long term,” Sushil Sukhwani​, founder of Edwise International said, adding that the news has been extensively covered in the Indian press, online and also circulating on social media.

“There has been news about the Indian government too asking students to connect with them as well as authorities in Quebec to assist with tuition refunds.

“On the Canadian government front there has to be closer and regular monitoring with the Designated Learning Institute process. This may need to be intensified for private institutions,” he told The PIE.

Sukhwani also warned that under the current ecosystem agent are typically not aware or equipped to do any due diligence of institutions.

Some networks of agencies look primarily at the commission paid by institutions and not the quality, rank and facilities, and a further network of subagents “have little or no knowledge and don’t care about” parameters.

“It is not easy to monitor the agents and subagents and this gives a bad reputation to the other quality agencies.

“On deeper audit one would realise that reputed large agencies would not have placed students at these institutions,” he said. A body such as AIRC should monitor the quality and processes followed by agencies, he proposed.

“Another effective example of monitoring quality and services of agencies can be found in the Australian Education System which follows the ESOS Act,” he said.

“The students worldwide need to be educated to recognise such certifications by governments worldwide.

“This has happened in many other countries too”

“Presently other institutions are stepping in to allow academic credit transfer. This is good for the students who have been stranded. It’s just unfortunate that such incidents happen. However, this has happened in many other countries too.”

While Akshay Chaturvedi, founder & CEO at LeverageEdu, feels the situation is a “very solitary incident”, it is “high time provincial regulations around college accreditations are looked at with a different, and more importantly, outcome-focused lens”.

“Canada evidently is a major immigration destination for Indian students today, and we feel programs should be designed to help these future immigrants get ready for the job market,” he said

“A better alumni cohort with superior enrolment records ensures better enrolments and would at the end, ensure steady flow of revenue for these colleges. We collectively empathise with our fellow Indians facing difficulties with this situation and urge the local provincial government to find out ways for these students to re-enrol/ pick up from where they left off in courses in other equivalent courses provided by other colleges in the province.

“Ensuring this happens without any additional financial burden to the students will go a long way in solving this mishap,” he said, adding that companies like LeverageEdu take its due diligence very seriously.

“Hence LeverageEdu has avoided such incidents with our students,” he said.

International students are supposed to have enough funds to pay their own way – the Canadian government does not provide any support.

According to Statistics Canada, the federal data agency, the average undergraduate tuition in the country is $33,623. Before issuing a study permit, the immigration department requires that students have $10,000 to cover the first year of living expenses.

With most educational programs lasting more than one year, many Indian students quickly run out of funds. “A lot of these students don’t come from wealthy backgrounds,” said Uday Rama, a reporter with the Globe and Mail newspaper who wrote a series of articles about the challenges facing students from that country.

With a study permit, international students are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week. However, they often soon find that is insufficient to cover tuition, housing and living costs. Many turn to cash gigs delivering pizza and packages. They must juggle their studies with working a lot of hours every week to make ends meet.

Some get jobs with businesses owned by Indian immigrants to Canada. However, a number of these firms refuse to pay the legislated minimum wage or withhold the students’ pay.

Indian students also have difficulties finding affordable housing. There is a shortage of housing in many parts of Canada and some landlords are reluctant to rent to international students here temporarily on a study permit.

 

 

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