Hundreds of international students who paid a Scarborough college upwards of $15,000 in tuition say their enrolment has been unilaterally suspended — placing their study permits in jeopardy.
Harmanpreet Kaur recently completed her first semester at Alpha College of Business and Technology, an affiliate of St. Lawrence College, when she received an email on May 17 informing her that her spring semester enrolment had been suspended.
Kaur is among dozens of students who have been protesting night and day in front of Alpha College on Kennedy Road.
International students' lives are "totally incomplete without the enrolment letter," she said, as it is "the main proof that we are declared as students in Canada."
Fellow student Ekam Noor says some Alpha students still in India received an offer letter and paid fees, only to be told they would not get an enrolment letter.
"The students who are still in India, who have not come here yet, the college give them an offer letter and they took their fees. They paid around $16,000 for two semesters, and after that they told them that they cannot come to Canada because they are not providing them a letter of enrolment," Noor said.
"That's a problem for them because they have lost their fees and they cannot come here to finish this study."
The students want the college to guarantee in writing that they'll be able to graduate on schedule. However, Alpha president Vivian Liu said a break semester is a typical part of the school year and should not impact students' ability to apply for a post-graduate work permit.
"All students who meet enrolment requirements remain active students," she said in a statement to CBC News released via St. Lawrence College that did not address students' study permit concerns.
Liu said the school proposed "alternative enrolment options" as a result of increased winter and spring semester demands.
'It's really destroying my mental health'
Harmanpreet Kaur says the events of the past week have taken a toll on students' mental health.
"We come from our country to here with lots of dreams, with lots of hope," she said. "Our family, our relatives are not there to support us. It's really destroying my mental health."
Ramanpreet Kaur says everything went smoothly during her first semester, then she got the shocking news.
"I contacted college [and] they said, like, 'we are not enrolling you,'" she said.
"I was in shock. Like, suddenly, what happened? Everything was all right. I was so depressed."
The Ontario Ministry of College and Universities is aware of the situation, a spokesperson told CBC News.
Rashi Jain says the ministry has been in contact with St. Lawrence College and understands that the college and its affiliate are working to find solutions for the impacted students.
"The ministry understands that all students impacted for the Spring 2022 semester are being accommodated," Jain wrote in an email.
International student study permits are a federal responsibility, Jain said, but federal guidelines state that study permit holders may take an authorized leave of up to 150 days and still be considered to be actively pursuing their studies.
We cannot believe their commitments because they keep telling us different things every day and we just simply cannot believe them. - Ekam Noor, student, Alpha College of Business Technology
But Noor, one of the de-enrolled students, said the trust is broken, adding that students have been getting mixed messages from the college.
"The only thing we want from this college is that they give us a written proof that they are going to finish our graduation here and then let us finish our graduation and that they will not do something like this again in the future," Noor said.
"We cannot believe their commitments because they keep telling us different things every day and we just simply cannot believe them."