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International Students in Canada

International Students Lured To Canada On Bogus Promises of Jobs & PR

Last Updated On 1 April 2023, 11:07 AM EDT (Toronto Time)

A growing number of colleges depend on international students enrolling at private affiliates for tens of millions in tuition revenue.

Dilpreet Kaur is an international student whose parents were concerned that it would be difficult for her to find employment in her home state Punjab, India.

Her father works as a rice and wheat farmer. 

Her father sold two trucks to raise the money for her to move to Canada, rent a room in a shared apartment in Toronto’s east end, and paid $16,000 in international tuition fees for the first year of a two-year college program for $28,000. In addition, he mortgaged the family’s land last year.

Kaur, 19, revealed to CBC’s The Fifth Estate that she sought advice from a college recruiter. This recruiter was one of the numerous independent contractors working in an unregulated market in India.

They earn commissions by enrolling students in Canadian colleges, sometimes by creating false impressions about the quality of education offered and how easy life is there. 

For example, she had never heard of Alpha College before the recruiter told her that’s where she should go. In an interview, Kaur says she did not know why the recruiter just suggested Alpha college. Nevertheless, she enrolled at Alpha in a programme for computer systems technicians. 

Further, she explained before arriving in Canada, she assumed the country to be gorgeous and movie-like, and all she had to do was work hard and move there. However, when she arrived in Canada, everything was completely different, she explained. 

Like Kaur, many international students in Ontario’s colleges are from India. Rural families in India regularly risk their entire farms to raise enough money for a child’s education in the hopes that they will one day find a good job and be able to send money back home to pay the debt. 

Each year, tens of thousands of international students enroll in Canadian post-secondary institutions. Many get attracted by the country’s reputation and the chance to obtain permanent residency. Moreover, the vast majority of international students enroll in public colleges. 

However, about 25,000 students were drawn to enroll at private colleges in Ontario, collaborating with public colleges last year. These colleges have come to rely on international students’ significantly higher tuition fees, typically four to five times what domestic students pay. 

Critics informed the Fifth Estate that colleges are overcrowding students into physical and virtual classes, with little concern for regulations, the well-being of the students, or anything besides the bottom line.

According to the Toronto fire department, Alpha, a private career college that partners with the public St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario, has more than doubled its enrollment since the pandemic started to 4,900 students. However, it is a two-story building at Kennedy Road, and Passmore Avenue in Toronto only has room for 420 students.

Kaur, studying at Alpha college, says they only ask for money, get rich, fill their pockets and do not care about the students. 

In a report released in December last year, Ontario’s auditor general found that the province’s smaller public colleges, particularly those in remote or rural areas where domestic enrollment has been declining, have become highly dependent financially on international students. However, they increasingly face challenges in attracting students to their home campuses.

As a result, 11 of them have partnered with private, professional colleges in the Toronto area, enabling students to live in or near Toronto while pursuing a degree from a public college situated, for instance, in Timmins or North Bay, Ontario. 

According to the auditor general’s report, tuition income from these partnerships made the difference between five of the six public colleges that had them in place as of 2019–20 operating in a deficit or a surplus. It is also profitable for private colleges, with net profit margins ranging from 18 to 53 percent.

Earl Blaney, a supporter of international students and a licensed Canadian immigration consultant in London, Ontario, says that with decreasing government funding, international students have become the primary source of income for these schools.

Recruiters making misleading claims to attract international students

From the farmer’s field to the classroom, education recruiters are the first link in the chain. It’s a cutthroat profession in India where thousands of independent brokers get about $2,000 for each student they sign up for a Canadian college with whom they have an arrangement.

The Fifth Estate collected papers showing that recruiters were the exclusive source of enrollment for international students at Alpha College during the most recent academic year.

According to the auditor general’s report from last year, Ontario’s public colleges gave recruiters commission payments totalling more than $114 million in 2020–21. In addition, the amount given by private vocational colleges does not have a clear record. 

 The Fifth Estate’s investigation went undercover in Punjab state to record what recruiters were saying to prospective students. n Jalandhar, the third-largest city in the state, a father and his 19-year-old son, interested in pursuing an education in Canada, agreed to wear a hidden camera while speaking with numerous recruiters.

At one of their meetings, the recruiter explained that the first year’s tuition would be about $17,000. The father then asked, “Will he be able to obtain employment for the next year?”

The recruiter said, “Paying for second-year tuition is simple for students.”

In reality, the Fifth Estate discovered that many international students in college find it difficult to make enough money in Canada to cover their living expenses, let alone the cost of their second year’s tuition. 

The federal government temporarily abolished the restriction on international students working 20 hours off-campus each week during academic semesters on Friday. 

International students couldn’t expect to make much more than $22,000 a year at Ontario’s minimum wage, which is insufficient to pay their tuition of $16,000 or $17,000 and still have money left over for necessities like rent, food, and utilities. And all of it is in addition to full-time college.

The father inquired about a reputable public college in Toronto during their visit with his 19-year-old son. However, the recruiter gave him information about a little-known private college. 

The recruiter mentioned a private Hanson College, nestled in a strip mall in Brampton, Ontario. He said, “There is a college named Cambrian at Hanson” 350 miles north in Sudbury, Ontario. A public institution called Cambrian and Hanson has been collaborators since 2005.

When contacted by The Fifth Estate, a Hanson College representative would not confirm whether the school had a relationship with that specific recruiter. However, the representative stated that the college works with “recruitment agents across various regions globally, including Indian agencies,” and that the students they sign up for represent about 30 to 35 percent of the school’s enrollment.

According to the auditor general, recruitment firms are motivated to enroll as many students as possible in the programs with the highest tuition prices because their commissions are based on the tuition fees paid by the students they sign up.

Unreliable claims about visas

The father voiced concern about his son’s ability to obtain permanent residency in Canada after graduation from another recruitment firm.

The recruiter answered, “Definitely not.” Obtaining permanent residency is simple for students.

The truth is that only approximately 30% of visitors to Canada on student visas achieved permanent residency within ten years, according to a Statistics Canada report from the previous year.

Even after the father and son left the agents’ offices, recruiters for another agency approached them on the street. They offered to charge less for their services and provide a more intimate relationship.

Ontario auditor general found similar questionable claims made by college recruiters in the audit report. These included organizations that claimed “guaranteed results” on English aptitude tests and those that guaranteed “100% visa success.”

An innovative form of hiring has emerged in recent years. Millions of prospective students from other nations can now connect with thousands of employers and educational institutions in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Ireland through online platforms developed by several “Edu-tech” companies in Canada, Australia, and Singapore.

However, critics such as Blaney, a lawyer for international students and immigration expert, claimed that these so-called aggregator businesses just increased the gap between institutions and recruiters bringing in new students. 

Blaney says there are thousands of sub-agents in the field, but none are connected to the institution in any way. Therefore, the college cannot evaluate their work or interactions with the student, any promises they may have made, or any advertisements they ran.

Numerous colleges exceeding the provincial enrolment limit 

As a result of the federal government’s statement that Canada needed more educated immigrants, Blaney claimed that the number of international students entering the country increased significantly starting around ten years ago. 

Additionally, it was advised by a federal advisory body that by 2022, there should be more than 450,000 international students enrolled worldwide. Canada considerably exceeded that goal and, as of December 31, 2012, had 621,000 individuals in the country with student visas.

Nine collaborations with private colleges have been signed since the 2012 report due to the surge in international students attending the province’s public colleges.

The auditor general of Ontario estimates that the $1.6 billion in total funding from the provincial government, which represents the lowest per capita government funding of any province in Canada, will now be surpassed by the $1.7 billion in international tuition fees to fund Ontario’s colleges.

The maximum number of international students that an Ontario public college may enroll at one of its affiliated private career colleges is set by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities of Ontario. However, the quota is limited to a maximum of twice the number of international students enrolled on the main campus of the public college.

Nevertheless, the provincial auditor general discovered that a few colleges had recently surpassed such limitations with no consequences. For example, the private partner of Canadore College in North Bay had 8.8 times as many international students as the actual college.

At Northern College in Timmins, Ontario, the ratio was 8.6. More than twice the permitted ratio, Alpha College’s enrollment is almost 4.5-to-1 that of St. Lawrence College’s home campus.

According to Blaney, the emphasis has been on the numbers. That is the only thing that everybody cares about. “How many international students can we accommodate, and how much funding are we able to secure.”

According to a Ministry of Colleges and Universities representative, colleges “are separate legal bodies and are responsible for both academic and administrative affairs, including enrolment and capacity.”

Neither Alpha College nor its public partner, St. Lawrence College, would consent to an interview.

A representative for St. Lawrence said in an email this week that Alpha College and the school had “developed and executed quality assurance standards to guarantee students who come to Ontario have a pleasant experience and eventually stay here to live and work.”

However, the email said, “We recognize there is much more to do. Colleges and partners offer a wide range of support services to international students.”

To develop new solutions, “we are engaging collaboratively with other colleges, municipalities, and community leaders—and most importantly, our students.”

Low-paying jobs after graduation

Sean Fraser, the Federal minister in charge of immigration, expressed his deep concern over “some private colleges.” He says their existence is “only to make a buck on the back of the international student program.”

He stated, “We have concerns that it might be about financial impropriety, rather than offering a great education to students who are coming here seeking to improve themselves,” in an interview with The Fifth Estate last week.

According to Fraser, if specific recruiters or colleges are taking advantage of students, he needs to clarify to the relevant provincial government that they don’t need his permission to remove the college from the study permit program.

“The program wasn’t made for this. It is intended to enrich Canadian communities and provide education to students, not to allow sham businesses to set up shop and exploit the money of helpless students who have idealized Canada in their minds only to be disappointed.”

Source: CBC News