Many people who dream of attaining educational goals do so with the dreams of a better life, not only for themselves but also for their families. In areas of the world that do not have the appropriate schools or universities, students often travel abroad or procure courses that are made available online. Completion of online courses is a common practice and has grown over the past two decades into a booming industry for many colleges and universities across the world.
For those who travel outside their country, that choice is often made based on certain incentives and advantages offered by the school such as financial comparability, future employment opportunities/placements, and so on.
This was the goal of numerous international students attending Niagara College in St. Catharines, Ontario. The students alleged that they selected this well-known educational institution based on the promise of attaining a work permit upon successful completion. This program was heavily marketed to overseas students who had already attained a Bachelor's Degree in their country and had also completed a Canadian studies program.
Two of the students, A. Goyal and C. Zankat are in the forefront of the fifty-five million dollar class-action suit (five million dollars in punitive and aggravated damages and fifty million dollars for unfair practises) being waged against Niagara College. The claim states that the College misrepresented the parameters of the course and misled students into believing that the four month general arts and science diploma transfer program which was done mostly via the web, would allow students the opportunity to earn a three year Post-Graduation Work Permit upon its completion.
Unbeknownst to the students, the program did not meet the requirements within Citizenship and Immigration Canada's (CIC) procedures because it was essentially considered a distance learning program. The end result is that students in Canada were being ordered to leave after the program because they no longer have any legal grounds to stay within the country. As many as five hundred graduates of the program were denied permits.
It is alleged in the statement of claim that it was the College's responsibility to be fully aware of the necessary requirements and the negative ramifications before offering such a program to prospective students. As it stands, participation in this program automatically disqualified its graduates from being able to be attain any work permit (according to CIC), which is contrary to the claims made by the Niagara College as it allegedly states that the program is not a distance learning one. Some students have claimed that they forgoed chances of a one year work permit to gain access to the three year work permit avenue offered by the Niagara College.
Distance learning programs have increased and become more common with the advancements in internet technology. In the past, a student was required to physically attend in a classroom with a teacher to gain a higher level of education, but distance learning programs have significantly altered this process. Students from all over the world can now more easily engage with each other and their professors to attain a graduate status.
Based on the distance education program, a person is not required to be in the country where the educational facility is located. Prospective students of these programs do not need a study permit to participate in the course and many people believe that Canadian Immigration is not keeping up with the reality of optional learning avenues created by technology and is keeping progress behind as with this case.
The Niagara College is a community college which is recognized by CIC as well as the Ministry of Education in Ontario but according to the procedures of CIC, students need to complete a full-time program while in Canada lasting a minimum of eight months in order to qualify for a work permit.
This is not the first case of its kind. A similar situation occurred in 2007 when George Brown College in Toronto advertised that completion of one of its programs (an eight-month international business management program) would make its graduates industry certified.
Students who chose this course claimed that this was the sole reason for participating in the program but were misled and disappointed when finding out that it only prepared them to seek a further certification at an additional cost.
Lawyers who represented George Brown claimed that if students properly researched the course and its limitations they would have realized that it was a preparatory course versus an actual accreditation upon completion program. Edward Belobaba an Ontario Superior Court Judge, did not agree with the views of the Toronto College when he ruled against them stating that the manner in which the course was described "could plausibly be interpreted as meaning exactly what it said" (that is, implying that the course would provide three industry designations/certifications).
About one hundred and twenty students paid almost eleven thousand dollars individually in tuition for a program that did not deliver what they signed up for. After the claim was initiated, George Brown College altered their course description to clearly reflect its nature.