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  • Writer's pictureJustin Prince

Everest College closure leaves students shocked

By Justin Prince

An independent regulator has suspended operations for all 14 Everest College campuses in Ontario, leaving Windsor students shocked and furious.

The superintendent of private career colleges announced Feb. 19 a decision to suspend the college’s operating license in the province “for the protection of its current and future students” and because the superintendent was “no longer satisfied that Everest could be expected to be financially responsible in the operation of a private career college and in the offering of its vocational programs.”

Under the Private Career Colleges Act, the superintendent, who is a private independent statutory regulator in charge of more than 420 private career colleges within the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, is able to suspend any PCC license if they are no longer satisfied that it can financially operate as a private career college.

Corinthian Colleges Inc., which owns Everest College, had been attempting to sell all the campuses since July 2014. Corinthian also announced after the ruling all classes would be cancelled immediately. The decision affects hundreds of students in Windsor and more than 2,400 students across Ontario. More than 450 employees are also affected. The MTCU said Corinthian has 15 days to appeal the ruling.

“This came a surprise to us as we have been working with the Ministry for the past several weeks and months to determine our best path forward,” said Everest College spokesperson Joe Hixson. “We are working with the Ministry to determine our next steps and will update all concerned parties as we gain more information.”

After the decision was announced, students at the college’s Windsor campus were upset. The students were said to be swearing and angry in a meeting with faculty at their Ouellette Avenue location. Some students claimed the president of the campus allegedly ran down the back stairwell of the building, went into his car and waited for the meeting to end.

Early childcare assistant student Paige Cadieux, who started her program two weeks ago, said some of her fellow students couldn’t take their certification tests due to the decision. Others said they had at least $30,000 in Ontario Student Assistance Program debt. Students were also given forms to file claims with the MTCU through the Training Completion Assistance Fund. The fund allots $3 million for students from all 14 campuses to receive refunds or to pay to complete their training, but was not guaranteed during the meeting, according to Cadieux.

“We came to class today and it was like ‘nope, your last day was yesterday’ and no one has said anything other than ‘there’s nothing we can do for you. You have to file a claim. You have to do this, you have to do that,’” said Amanda Hunter, a 27-year-old personal support worker student at the college after the meeting while in tears. “If every school in Ontario now is closed, look at all of those people that are going to be filing a claim. How are they going to get to us in a timely manner?”

Lesley Ceshan, a 43-year-old medical laboratory assistant/technician student at the college, said she worked midnight shifts and at part-time jobs while raising a family as an adult student to pay for her schooling at Everest and had a 95 GPA in her program before the school was shut down. Because of the closure, she said some students don’t know what to do.

“Most of my classmates were almost finished the course. We had one week left in placement,” said Ceshan. “We had to leave (our placements) just to come to this meeting just to find out we can’t return to practicum. So now we’re going to have to just see what we can do and plead for ourselves to see if we’ll still be considered for a job once we’re finished (at our placements).”

Cadieux said she planned to explore her options at Trios College, another private career college in Windsor, but for most students, their futures are unknown.

St. Clair College plans to consult and meet with former Everest students Feb. 21 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. to discuss potential transfers. In a statement, the MTCU said it also plans to meet with students at each Everest campus to provide information about the next steps to take. The MTCU said one of their main priorities is “to ensure that students are provided with training completion options that will allow them to promptly complete their programs with as little disruption as possible.”

“I just want to figure out things sooner than later,” said Bobby Knight, a 25-year-old personal support worker student. “This was the career I chose and was looking forward to my future for my kids and everything. It’s just on hold right now, but you’re thrown curveballs in your life, so you just got to deal with them the best you can.”

Students are asked to contacted officials from the MTCU over the phone at 416-314-0500, toll free at 1-866-330-3395 or on their website at Staff of Everest College can also call the Employment Ontario Hotline at 1-800-387-5656 for assistance.

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