THREE prominent Sikh organizations — the Ontario Gurdwaras Committee, Khalsa Aid Canada and the World Sikh Organization of Canada — have written to the leaders of Ontario’s political parties calling on them to address what they call a “crisis” of exploitative practices affecting international students in Ontario.
In light of the controversy surrounding the conduct of Alpha College, an affiliate of St. Lawrence College, international students have complained against other private career colleges in Ontario.
The organizations have called on the Ontario leaders to commit to addressing this issue with steps such as an official review and audit of private career colleges and a review of private career college accountability measures and the public-private partnership framework to ensure student harms are addressed.
The three organizations along with the International Sikh Students Association will be hosting a community town hall meeting to address the international student ‘crisis’ and to call on political leaders to hold colleges accountable. The community town hall details are as follows:
Date: Sunday May 29, 12-2 p.m.
Location: 9 Carrier Drive, Toronto (Toronto Sikh Spiritual Centre).
May 26, 2022
Premier Doug Ford, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
Steven Del Duca, Ontario Liberal Party
Andrea Horwath, New Democratic Party of Ontario
Mike Schreiner, Green Party of Ontario
Re: International Students in Crisis in Ontario
We, the undersigned, are writing to call on you to commit to investigating and holding private post-secondary educational institutions accountable for profit-driven and exploitative practices that are having devastating effects on the International Student Community.
It is now clear that the plight of international students has reached a crisis state in Ontario. Many Private Career Colleges are generating large profits at the expense of international students while engaging in exploitative practices and not providing adequate education or supports. As a result, international students are encountering serious financial hardships, deteriorating mental health, immigration complications, and an overall loss of trust in the Canadian post secondary education system.
The issue of exploitative and unreasonable practices by Private Career Colleges has become particularly glaring in light of the controversy surrounding the conduct of Alpha College ( the “College”), an affiliate of St Lawrence College. Hundreds of international students, including a large number of Sikh students from Punjab, had their enrolments suspended by the College, despite having paid upwards of $15,000 in tuition. The College claims that it has insufficient resources to enroll the students this semester. This is not the first time the College had deferred enrolment for its international students due to a lack of seats. Affected students have not been provided refunds as the College continues to hold hundreds of thousands of dollars of the students’ tuition fees without providing any education or support.
After a prolonged protest by affected students and media controversy, Alpha College has told students that all currently registered students in Canada who have paid tuition will be issued enrollment letters; however, students have expressed a lack of trust in the College administration which has previously enrolled students, only to subsequently tell them that there is insufficient space.
It is unclear what, if any solution, Alpha College is offering to students currently in India who have already paid their tuition fees.
St. Lawrence College was listed as one of five colleges that had more international students at private career colleges than what they were allowed. In a report released in December 2021, The Auditor General of Ontario found that if St. Lawrence College were to suddenly lose their partnerships with private career colleges, the college would face a $6.51 million dollar deficit next year.
It is clear that St. Lawrence College and its affiliate, Alpha College are treating international students like cash cows and not providing them the education and respect they deserve.
The exploitation of international students is not, however, limited to just St. Lawrence College. Students at other private career colleges in Ontario are complaining of similar practices.
International students are responsible for almost 40 percent of all tuition fees across Canada. International students generated about $1.7 billion in 2019; 62% of these students came from India. The exploitation of international students spans from the unethical practices of ‘agents’ and college recruiters to a lack of resources and supports provided to students by the colleges to lack of affordable housing and exploitation by unscrupulous employers. A significant number of despondent international students have died from suicide. In short, the plight of international students is now a full blown crisis.
We are calling on you to commit to initiating an official review and audit of private career colleges in Ontario and particularly Alpha College and St. Lawrence College. The audit must examine whether these colleges are offering admission to more students than they have the seats and resources to accommodate. The audit should also look at whether adequate resources and supports are being devoted by colleges to international students.
We call on you to publicly commit to reviewing and revising private career college accountability measures and the public private partnership framework to ensure current and future student harms are addressed.
International students in Ontario have suffered for long enough. Our organizations and community are looking to you for a firm commitment to action to ensure this situation is immediately addressed.
We look forward to your prompt response.
Amarjeet Mann, Spokesperson, Ontario Gurdwaras Committee
Jatinder Singh, National Director & Mandeep Singh, Director, Khalsa Aid Canada
Dr. Jaspreet Kaur Bal, Vice President for Ontario, World Sikh Organization of Canada