Tuesday, January 18, 2022

A few weeks before applying for creditor protection, the college pressured students to pay tuition early. CBC News

Sahaj Sharma says why should he. His private college in Kay Longueil was starting to be in doubt when it suddenly prompted him to pay thousands of dollars in tuition fees a month ahead of plan.

At the end of November, Sharma and his classmates were given days to pay the money or risk being suspended or thrown out.

They scrambled to come up with about $7,000.

“Paying all these charges in three to four days is not that easy,” said 19-year-old Sharma from India, who attended the college’s Medical Office Specialty Program.

College, also known as the . known as Quebec College of Accounting and Secretarial (CCSQ), provides vocational training in programs such as accounting and secretarial studies. Most of its students are from India.

Last Friday, the college, along with two other private colleges and a student recruitment firm, filed for creditor protection. In court filings, the colleges attributed some of their financial troubles to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paid and winter leave extended

Students appearing in CCSQ are now questioning the real reason behind the huge rush to pay their fees early.

Initially, the finance department of the CCSQ told students on November 21 that they have until early January to pay their fees.

But an email sent on November 29, shared with CBC Montreal, told students they have until December 3 to pay about $7,000.

The college said it cannot offer extension or payment in installments.

“Failure to pay by the due date will result in suspension of student privileges (such as access to student services), suspension or up to expulsion from the study program,” the email said.

Due to the closure of the college, the students are not able to continue their program. If they are not studying, Immigration Canada tells them they do not have the right to work. (Louis-Marie Philidor/CBC)

The demand for money coincided with an email extending the winter break.

The students were told that the break would begin the next day – November 30 – due to concerns about the Omicron version of COVID-19.

Originally, the CCSQ was to be closed from December 12 to January 10. The administration assured the students that their programs would not be for long.

But when the students reached the college on January 10, the door was locked.

Sharma could not believe it and now says that he is worried about his future.

An only child, Sharma has been on the phone with his parents in Patiala, a large city in India’s northern state of Punjab.

“We paid everything on time and in order,” said a weary Sharma in a phone interview.

International students pay $28,000-$30,000 to attend colleges over a two-year period, which is three to four times what a Canadian student would pay.

“Yet we are treated like this,” Sharma said.

Unpaid Tuition Fees, Refunds in Lakhs

In addition to the CCSQ, M College in Montreal, CDE College in Sherbrooke and the recruitment firm Rising Phoenix International filed for creditor protection. Last week,

The college and recruitment firm, under the name RPI Group, are all owned by the Mastantuono family.

Joseph Mastantuono is the president of the three colleges.

The request for creditor protection comes a little more than a year after India began investigating several private colleges, including M College and CDE College, for “suspicious” recruitment practices of students.

Students faced considerable delays in getting their study permits approved by the federal government. Unable to come to Canada, many students decided to drop out of colleges and apply for a refund of their tuition fees.

A few weeks before applying for creditor protection, the college pressured students to pay tuition early. CBC News
Joseph Mastantuono is president of CCSQ, M College in Montreal and CDE College in Sherbrooke. His family is the owner of RPI Group. (Joseph Mastantuono/LinkedIn)

In December, CBC News reported that there were dozens of students in India. still waiting So that their tuition fees can be refunded.

Last week’s court filing has created even more uncertainty and tension.

According to the Application for Creditor Protection, claims for unpaid tuition fees and refunds from 633 students against RPI Group are estimated at approximately $6.4 million. The document says there could be an additional $5 million in potential claims from hundreds of other students who have not yet received their student visas.

Now that schools are closed, students cannot continue with their schedules. If they are not studying, Immigration Canada told them, they do not have the right to work.

“What do I do now?” Said Sahaj’s classmate Dev Sharma in the CCSQ. Students have 150 days to enroll in another school, but Sharma says he has already paid $21,000 to the college.

Sharma said, “It is very difficult because it was my parents’ life savings and they worked for so many years to give me a better education and now suddenly, everything is gone.”

The 19-year-old doubts that he will never get his money back.

“I have almost no hope, literally.”

He and his family thought the college was a safe place for them to study, not only because it was in Canada, but because it was recognized as a DLI, or designated educational institution, approved by the province. it was done.

A few weeks before applying for creditor protection, the college pressured students to pay tuition early. CBC News
Many students from India who paid thousands to attend M College in LaSalle, Ky., say they have still not been reimbursed, even though they could not attend due to issues with obtaining study permits. (Simon Martel / CBC)

lack of support

Both Dev and Sahaj have complained to the Ministry of Higher Education, but there has been no hearing so far.

In an email, ministry spokesman Brian St. Louis said representatives of the colleges, along with their attorneys, met with ministry officials on January 5 and told them they intended to file for creditor protection.

He said the ministry was monitoring the situation closely, but any refund would depend on the restructuring process, which is being monitored by accounting firm Richter Advisory Group Inc.

Questions from CCSQ President Joseph Mustantuono were referred to the Richter Group, which declined to comment, saying the matter was now before the courts.

Dev Sharma said, “It is like a legal trap that they have created for their own safety.”

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