OTTAWA — A lack of clarity from the federal government on whether career colleges will still be allowed to accept international students starting in 2014 is prompting seven of them to pull out of an important spring trade show in China.
Serge Buy, chief executive of the National Association of Career Colleges, said he can’t, in good conscience, send a delegation of career colleges to the March event if the schools aren’t going to be able to accept Chinese students for much longer.
“We were approved by the Canadian government to go. We were approved by the Chinese government to go and we were going and now, poof, gone,” Buy said Wednesday.
“I cannot go and take money from our association and attend a trade show when we may be shut out at the end of year.”
Buy’s concerns stem from a proposed regulation posted by the federal government in the Canada Gazette just before the new year aimed at toughening the rules surrounding student visas. It’s part of a government crackdown on fraud and human smuggling that’s expected to take effect in January 2014.
According to the regulations, student visas will only be issued to foreign students studying at designated institutions on the condition that they’re actually enrolled and going to class. The new rules will allow Canada to remove those who don’t comply and will also “streamline” access to work permits. Those enrolled in programs less than six months long will also no longer be eligible for student visas.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is asking the provinces and territories to submit a list of approved institutions, and schools not on the list will be barred from accepting international students.
If provinces don’t step up, however, the federal government will designate institutions.
That worries Buy, who believes the provinces are unlikely to create extra work for themselves. Ontario alone, he said, accounts for 40 per cent of the career college sector and that province is at a standstill given the ongoing leadership race to replace Premier Dalton McGuinty. He fears the province won’t get the list together in time.
As for the federal plan, Buy said there’s no mention of career colleges anywhere. In fact, he sought clarification in an email exchange with Citizenship and Immigration Canada on Dec. 28 and is disturbed by the response.
“We’ve just reviewed the publication in the Canada Gazette of the proposed regulations on international students and we’re quite pleased until . . . we saw ourselves completely excluded,” he wrote in an email obtained by Postmedia News that went on to ask if that was deliberate or simply an oversight.
The response seemed to validate his concerns.
“What this means is that should provinces and territories not designate educational institutions for the purpose of hosting international students, and not enter into (memorandums of understanding) with CIC for this purpose, CIC would only issue study permits to public institutions, i.e., public post-secondary institutions, or private degree-granting post-secondary institutions,” wrote Melissa Fama, a deputy director for international students with CIC.
“The bottom line is that CIC does not have the ability to assess private educational institutions, as this is the jurisdiction of provinces and territories.”
Buy argued the federal government is familiar with career colleges as many of them are accredited for the purposes of employment insurance and Canada student loans, but added he’s no further ahead after a follow-up meeting this week with CIC.
“If it is really about the integrity of the immigration program … then we’re the only partners that CIC has at this point,” he added. “We take attendance in our classes. We would know whether or not a foreign student is going to be able to be in class or not or they are coming for other reasons than going to class … The public system cannot take attendance.”
Buy said about 3,000 international students are currently enrolled at Canadian career colleges and that efforts are underway to boost those numbers. For example, a delegation from Libya was here this week to discuss sending more people to Canada for training.
He said the uncertainty is bad for business and bad for the country’s bottom line since international career college students contribute an estimated $350 million to the economy.
As for the provinces, some raised concerns in July about the cost of monitoring and reporting compliance and stressed visa fraud is ultimately federal jurisdiction.
On Wednesday, officials in Ontario said the province “may” contribute to the “pan-Canadian” list and that “all private career colleges in Ontario will be eligible to apply for inclusion.” Spokesperson Gyula Kovacs added a province-wide consultation with affected post-secondary institutions is taking place Jan. 24 and that private career colleges are invited.
Alberta government spokeswoman Suzana Krpan said the province will produce a list of eligible institutions and is consulting with all post-secondary institutions, including career colleges. Saskatchewan is also in the “very early stage” of developing a designation policy and list of eligible institutions, according to the ministry of advanced education. While “committed to providing equal opportunities to both (the) public and private educational sector,” officials couldn’t yet say whether career colleges would be included.
Canada issued more than 98,000 student visas last year, a 34 per cent increase over 2007. A recent study also found international students contribute nearly $7 billion annually to the Canadian economy, create more than 81,000 jobs and generate more than $445 million in government revenue.
Link to the original article here.