No-shows, dropouts and asylum requests — these 10 schools have Canada’s highest rates of ‘non-compliance’ among international students

Time for their “designated learning institution” (DLI) status to be reviewed and possibly revoked. Back door immigration, not education stream.

Overly charitable to state that “While it would be unfair to cast doubt over the integrity and legitimacy of these colleges and universities” given that, at a minimum, they and governments are complicit in this abuse of the program.

Great that IRCC has identified this risk, what remains to be seen if IRCC acts on this by revoking their DLI or other measures to curb this abuse:

Ontario is home to seven of the 10 schools flagged by the Canadian government as having the highest rates of “non-compliance” when it comes to international students failing to show up for their registered courses, or instead applying for asylum.

The names of the so-called designated learning institutions, or DLIs — schools approved to host international students — were revealed in an internal report by the Immigration Department’s integrity risk management branch.

The list raises questions about Canada’s rapidly expanding international education industry, which has seen schools bring in hundreds of thousands of foreign students at significantly higher tuition rates than their Canadian peers, and whether it may be experiencing issues around compliance and enforcement.

Seven of the post-secondary schools on the list, compiled in November 2021, were private institutions while the other three are publicly funded universities: Laurentian University in Sudbury, Cape Breton University and Université Sainte-Anne, both in Nova Scotia.

The ratings of the schools were based on the percentages of “no show,” “no record” or “no longer registered/enrolled” among their enrolled international students. The list also cited the number of asylum claims made by enrolled students.

The overall potential non-compliance rates of the 10 schools ranged from 33 per cent to 95 per cent, compared to the overall average of just seven per cent among some 1,600 DLIs across Canada, according to the list obtained under an access to information request by immigration policy analyst and lawyer Richard Kurland.

Evergreen College in Brampton, renamed Eastview College in 2021, and the Academy of Learning College in Toronto topped the list, both scoring 95 per cent.

At Evergreen, where six asylum claims were traced, 274 of the 288 students were deemed non-compliant, including:

  • 132 no-shows, who were offered admission but never confirmed acceptance, registered but never attended class, or presented in class but stopped attending without telling school administration.
  • 140 “no records,” where the administration does not have a record of a letter of acceptance issued to this person or any record of the person being enrolled in the school, despite immigration records saying otherwise. Experts say such discrepancies can be the result of clerical errors. 
  • two who were dismissed, withdrew voluntarily or transferred to another institution.

A spokesperson for Eastview said the “no record” numbers originated from fake acceptance letters that were issued under Evergreen’s name. The spokesperson said the administration had brought the issue to the attention of the Immigration Department but that no action was taken to address it.

The no-shows, she said, could be attributed to those who just came to the college looking for an acceptance letter so they could extend their work permit or to use it as a stepping stone to gain admission to another college.

“With the acceptance letter, they’re supposed to start with the program. But you know what, they do not. We can’t do anything with it,” noted the spokesperson, adding that some of the no-show students didn’t even bother to ask for refunds of fees and tuitions.

While it would be unfair to cast doubt over the integrity and legitimacy of these colleges and universities based on the data, experts say it does suggest some issues around compliance and enforcement.

“Some students may be bona fide or genuine students coming in and then they can fall through the cracks and then start not showing up to their classes. Could it be that they don’t really have the funds to actually pay for the next semester, so they don’t show up and start going under the table and underground?” asked immigration lawyer Lou Janssen Dangzalan.

“You’ve seen the reports of colleges doing strip-mall classes or theatre classes. That could dissuade an international student from attending classes. If I were an international student and paid so much money for tuition, I would be so demoralized attending classes. Basically that’s recorded as a no-show or no-record or no longer registered.”

Michael Sangster, CEO of the National Association of Career Colleges, said he could not comment on specific cases, but said its 450 provincially regulated members work closely to ensure students are supported and have the skills training needed to succeed.

“As all post-secondary institutions experience, there are many personal reasons why prospective students may ultimately make the decision not to pursue their studies, particularly over the last three years,” he said in a statement.

Other private colleges that made the non-compliant list included the Academy of Learning Career and Business College in Owen Sound, with an 87 per cent rate; Flair College of Management and Technology in Vaughan (82 per cent); Canadian Institute of Management and Technology in Ontario (62 per cent); BITTS International Career College in Mississauga (60 per cent); and Pacific Link College in Surrey, B.C. (47 per cent).

The Star reached out to all 10 institutions on the list. Four had responded by time of publication.

Sandip Dhakecha, Flair College’s campus administrator, said some private institutions do have lower admission criteria than their publicly funded counterparts. Sometimes, international students stop showing up when they realize their programs won’t earn them postgraduate work permits and coveted permanent residence in Canada.

“This is a pressing issue for us also because, you know, it looks bad on our name. We want to provide the quality education. But the thing is, we don’t have any control over our students,” he explained. “If a student comes before the program starts and asks for a refund, we 100 per cent refund them.”

In a statement to the Star, BITTS International said it was surprised by the report because it always follows all procedures for reporting and registration as required by different federal and provincial ministries of all DLIs.

“The non-compliance percentage of students are (those) who obtain their admissions at BITTS and then never continue with their enrolment and full-time studies. Many of these students obtain multiple admissions and then enrol where they find it convenient,” it said.

“Whatever information, that has been obtained in this report, we would like to review all of it, in detail, and respond accordingly.”

At Laurentian University, which has a 39 per cent non-compliant rate (with 321 of the 828 students potentially breaching the rules), registrar Serge Demers said post-secondary classes don’t take attendance and the registration system has become a proxy to monitor students.

“We’re talking about people who are not here, so it’s difficult to ask them why they’re not here,” said Demers. “There’s all of these levels of privacy that exist. In a world where everyone was in good faith, we wouldn’t need this system. I think the system is in place because there are people that are working their way through the cracks.”

A total of 197 asylum claims were reported from students enrolled in the top 10 DLIs — an issue that Dangzalan blames partially on the fact that not all international students have access to permanent residence, as often marketed by unscrupulous recruiters.

“If you run out of your postgraduate work permit, you are able to get a work permit while you’re waiting for your refugee determination,” said Dangzalan. “It’s an offshoot of the problem of overmarketing Canada. The system is just overwhelmed and now they’re trying to use alternative avenues to stay and remain in Canada.”

Source: No-shows, dropouts and asylum requests — these 10 schools have Canada’s highest rates of ‘non-compliance’ among international students

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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