With the decline in Indian students, unsubsidized private colleges are slowly dying

Breaking registration records during the pandemic, foreign students, especially Indians, have now deserted unsubsidized private colleges, noted The duty. Driven into bankruptcy, these establishments say they have been decimated by the Quebec government’s new immigration measure, which cut off access to post-graduation work permits.

“Our network is dying,” said Ginette Gervais, president of the Association of Unsubsidized Private Colleges of Quebec (ACPNS). “Some will do well, but those who turned to the international market to have more customers will have difficulty. »

According to data provided by the Ministry of Immigration, Francisation and Integration (MIFI), the number of foreign students attending these colleges is in free fall. While there were more than 10,000 during the years of the pandemic – with a record enrollment of 19,000 in 2020-2021 – there were barely more than 1,300 at the start of the 2023-2024 school year.

Students of Indian origin, who then made up more than 85% of the foreign clientele, now represent only 5%. In fact: only 78 Indian students were enrolled in these private colleges last fall while there have already been more than 17,000.

This drop coincides with the decision taken in 2022 by the former ministers of Higher Education and Immigration, Danielle McCann and Jean Boulet, who convinced Ottawa to reserve access to post-graduation work permits only for immigrants with university degrees. a subsidized study program. Coming into force on 1er Last September, the new measure cut off access to a work permit which could potentially lead to permanent residence.

According to the MIFI, this change aimed to protect “integrity” in connection with the recruitment of these foreign students, and to counter “immigration schemes” confirmed by an investigation by the Ministry of Higher Education. “Several private establishments, mostly English-speaking, served as a gateway to permanent residence and work permits for Indian and Chinese nationals,” the office of the Minister of Immigration was told. Media, including The dutyhad lifted the veil on the questionable practices of some of these establishments and problems linked to the quality of teaching.

A measure that hurts

Ginette Gervais, of the ACPNS, states it unequivocally: Quebec’s measure was “the first blow” given to the thirty private establishments that it represents. “The loss of the post-graduation work permit caused a lot of damage,” she said, mentioning that the straw that broke the camel’s back was the requirement for knowledge of French to obtain an attestation of college studies (AEC). .

“If they no longer have students, it’s going to be difficult for colleges to survive. » Over the last ten years, faced with the decrease in the number of Quebec students, these colleges have started recruiting internationally. “Everyone, even the universities and CEGEPs, had turned towards the international. And we benefited from the fact that we offered shorter training courses. »

President of College Canada, which has five campuses across Quebec, Cyrus Shani can only see that removing access to work permits has hurt a lot. “The impact is immense,” he told Duty. “We had 5,000 international and local students, but since the changes, we have dropped to 300! »

Founded in 1976, its college was first a language school before obtaining a permit in 2003 to provide college-level training. “My colleges are not profitable. But I have other companies, I have a clinic too, and that is what allows me to save my teaching activities,” explained Mr. Shani.

He says he doesn’t blame the government, but rather the colleges and recruitment agencies that did the harm. Certain shareholders of the recruitment firm Rising Phoenix International had also been the subject of an investigation by the Permanent Anti-Corruption Unit (UPAC). “Regulation is a good thing,” he agrees. Except that it has led to the agony of many establishments which did not deserve it, according to him, and that this deprives the government “of millions in economic benefits”.

A closed college

The Higher Institute of Computer Science, which offered college-level training for 25 years, was forced to close its doors in November 2022. “We hung on as long as we could,” said Henriette Morin , who headed the college. Several difficulties, notably a dispute with Rising Phoenix International, undermined all the financial resources of the school which had to go bankrupt. “We did everything we could to ensure that the students could get their money back,” said M.me Morin.

The tightening around the granting of work permits is not unrelated to the problems experienced. “It’s all linked,” she notes. It did not help that his establishment attempted to recruit Indian students, whose massive influx raised several questions within the government. “Who knows what would have happened if we had tried to recruit students in French-speaking Africa and the Maghreb. But they were granted visas much less easily. »

For the president of the ACPNS, unsubsidized private colleges will have no other choice but to redefine themselves and find new markets. “But it can’t be done by snapping your fingers,” says Ginette Gervais. We tried to explain our reality [au gouvernement] and the impacts that [ses décisions] have had on our activities, but we have very little listening. »

If unsubsidized private colleges are “dead” in their current form, they will have to reinvent themselves, also believes Cyrus Shani of College Canada. “In the meantime, we live day by day and we hope that Quebec will make changes that will help good colleges, those that really contribute to Quebec society. »

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