Private colleges in Québec file for credit protection

Published 13/01/2022

Hundreds of Indian students seeking tuition refunds have been left in limbo after three private Québec colleges and an affiliated recruitment company filed for creditor protection.

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, CBC reported.

Rising Phoenix International, an associated recruiting firm based in Montreal, also asked for creditor protection in a court filing on January 7. Its revenues were down 45% during the first year of the pandemic.

Many Indian students paid tuition fees in advance from their home country. However, some were unable to enter Canada to attend the school due to Covid travel restrictions and difficulty getting visas. Students at the three colleges pay between CAN$28,000 and $30,000 over two years, receiving a diploma at the end.

“No refunds of tuition can be processed at this time” due to the creditor protection request, said CDE president Joseph Mastantuono.

“No refunds of tuition can be processed at this time”

According to the court filing, 633 students have requested refunds totalling $6.4 million. In addition, $5m in tuition has been paid by students waiting for a decision on their study permit application.

Under Canada’s education system, the vast majority of students attend publicly funded colleges and universities. In addition, privately run career colleges – like the three Québec schools seeking creditor protection – offer diplomas with authorisation from the province. These career colleges rely entirely on tuition fees to operate. In the case of M College, it delivers programs in Business Management, Graphic and Multimedia Communications and Early Childhood Education.

Private colleges in Québec have been hit by several challenges in the past two years, including the banning of direct flights from India for five months in 2021, making it difficult for Indian students to come to the country to study.

The number of new Canadian study permits issued for the province of Québec was down 33% in 2020 compared to the previous year, due to the pandemic. A total of 6,792 were approved in 2020.

Additionally in 2020, the Québec government suspended 10 private colleges from accepting some international student applications, including M College and CDE, due to “questionable” recruiting practices in India.

The suspensions were lifted in January 2021 but students faced delays in getting visas.

Following an investigation, the Quebec government in June 2021 said it would “tighten the recruitment process” by private firms in the international education sector. The Ministry of Higher Education announced it was creating a dedicated audit team that would monitor private colleges.

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