Fund helps students at bankrupt Everest College

By Jasminee Sahoye

A fund set up by the provincial government is helping students financially after the sudden closure of all of U.S.-based Everest College’s 14 campuses in Ontario.

Everest, which filed for bankruptcy, left thousands of students, including some from the Caribbean, facing a bleak future over debt and employment prospects.

Last month, students were suddenly told of the college closure causing panic among those scrambling to finish schooling. Graduates may also face bleaker employment prospects from being associated with the Everest name.

A number of Caribbean immigrant students were enrolled in programs such as accounting, business administration, computer information science, criminal justice, health care, paralegal studies, and massage therapy.

Tessa, a Guyanese immigrant, was enrolled in the accounting program because she was told it’s a lucrative field.  She had a part-time job and attended evening classes. She says her money, time and efforts are “all gone down the drain.”

The Ontario government announced last week it will add $7.6 million for the fund it set up, in addition to $3 million already allotted to provide eligible students with funding towards training completion or full or partial refunds when career colleges go bust the way Everest did.

The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities says the money will “ensure that every student has the option to complete their training at a nearby institution without having to pay additional tuition” or provide rebates for tuition money already spent, for those who choose to not complete their studies somewhere else.

“We’re pleased to see that students will be able to receive the support needed to finish their training,” said Serge Buy, CEO of the National Association of Career Colleges, a national non-profit group that represents 500 colleges and 160,000 students across Canada.

The closure of Everest College came when the superintendent of private career colleges, the independent regulator that governs schools like Everest and others in Ontario, said it suspended the chain’s licence to operate.

The government says they will limit student debt for those students, even the ones who choose to not apply for a refund. “OSAP debt will be limited to $7,300 for a two-term academic year, or $10,950 for three terms, regardless of how much was borrowed,” the ministry said in a release.

The government will also ensure that the loans of OSAP students who complete their training at another institution will not enter repayment until six months after they have completed training at the alternative institution.

Canadian Everest campuses were owned by Corinthian Colleges, a California-based company that owns 107 college campuses across North America.