Canada: Diploma Mill Capital Of The World? How The Unsuspect Nation Dominates HigherEd Corruption
Something is very, very, wrong in the world. How do I know this?
Because Canada, home to ice hockey, low violent crime rates, and maple syrup, appears to be leading the world – overwhelmingly – in fraudulent higher education.
This phenomenon is not widely realized in the so-called “academic community” – or even among Canadians, for that matter. But ask around in countries like India, for example, where tens of thousands of students are recruited each year to study abroad in Canada, and the horror stories are widespread, consistent, and plentiful:
- Bogus students, shady schools: the visa scam (July 2007)
- Student visa fraud rampant (October 2008)
- Phony degrees catch up to buyers (December 2008)
- Ex-students at George Brown say program left them unqualified (August 2009)
- After paying $9,000, ‘I have nothing’ (September 2009)
- George Brown College faces class action lawsuit (April 2010)
- Student immigration scam investigated (October 2010)
- Students derailed by private university (March 2011)
- Pastor accused of fraud in $1 million immigration scam (June 2011)
- Fraud in international education (February 2012)
- Financial crime common in Canadian universities (August 2012)
- Bogus varsities prey on Indian students (October 2012)
- Concordia student loses thousands to cheque scam (October 2012)
- International students easy prey for immigration recruiters (December 2012)
- Will Foreign Students Deem Canadian Schools a Scam? (January 2014)
…and that’s from just 20 minutes of Google research.
Rampant Fraud Comes In Many Forms
The rampant fraud that has pervaded Canada education for years can be viewed through various lenses. On the one hand, there are immigrants trying to move to Canada illegally who buy whatever student visa they can find. There are also victims of human trafficking, who think they are going to Canada for a lucrative job, but end up being forced into drugs or prostitution – quite commonly while on student visas.
On the other hand, schools are hiring staff who have fraudulent degrees, and aggressively recruiting overseas students who have no idea the “university” that just recruited them is a well-known diploma mill. But perhaps the most egregious offense of all is the apparent acquiescence of the Canadian government to enable such fraud, assumedly in an effort to massively boost Canada’s GDP while scam schools laugh their way to the bank:
“We estimate that in 2010, international students in Canada spent in excess of $7.7 billion on tuition, accommodation and discretionary spending; created over 81,000 jobs; and generated more than $445 million in government revenue.” – Canadian government
To their credit – however much credit is left, that is – Canadian officials did propose cracking down on student visas last year in an effort to stop “unapproved” colleges from recruiting international students. But wait just a second – didn’t Canadian leaders promise the same thing back in 2011 – long after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had already publicly announced in 2010 that student visa abuse was a top catalyst for human trafficking in Canada? To make matters even worse, Canada’s Citizen and Immigration Department released a 2011 public report showing that since at least 2006, their national government had been well aware of rampant fraud and ongoing crime related to higher education and student visas in Canada.
And therein lies the absurdity of the situation:
- “unapproved” colleges in Canada have been allowed to exist at all
- “unapproved” colleges in Canada have been able to acquire student visas
- in fact, apparently anyone in Canada has been able to acquire student visas
- Canadian agencies have not been monitoring foreigners that arrive on student visas
- for years, Canada has offered empty promises to crack down on student visa fraud
…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
America’s Trusty Partner In Crime
Many people don’t realize how conjoined Canada and the United States truly are. We are now using the same international calling code (+1) for example. We are each other’s biggest trade partners by far, with no other countries coming close. Even our intelligence services work in tandem, and – rather unfortunately – so do our corrupt highered investors.
Case in point: Eminata Group, one of the most infamous for-profit education companies in Canada who is behind schools like University Canada West, Vancouver Career College, and CDI College, was actually started by a Korean American man named Peter Chung who fled the US after being convicted in 1993 for 10,000 violations of defrauding students in California at a computer training school he established.
Another for-profit franchise, Everest College, is owned and operated by American-based Corinthian Colleges, who the U.S. government recently forced to shut down nearly all of their south-of-the-border campuses due to massive fraud. Before Everest College was re-branded, however, it was part of the CDI College franchise in fact – right before Corinthian decided to sell off some campuses to Eminata Group. In the opposite direction, Canadian-born Herzing College decided to expand into the United States in the 1990s under the (misleading) name, Herzing University. Its reputation in both countries lingers somewhere between horrendous, and extremely horrendous. Oh, and surely we can’t forget the prestigious-sounding John Hancock University, owned and operated in the United States by Temania Group, a division of – once again – Eminata Group.
Update March 2015: The Everest College franchise in Ontario shut down all campuses after having their license revoked by the provincial career college superintendent.
Here’s the point: higher education corruption is not exclusive to Canada. In fact, if I really wanted to, I could probably go out and find 10 higher education horror stories in India for every story that’s occurred in Canada. Likewise, I could probably find 100 horror stories in the United States for every Canadian college scandal.
What’s the difference? The government of Canada appears to be actively, purposefully involved in the loose higher education regulations that plague their country in an admitted long-term attempt to become an international “destination” for college students. And, per capita (percentage of student experiences), that means that Canada is one of the worst bets in the world when it comes to higher education.
Canadian Government Directly Responsible
On the surface, Canada’s education regulations are rather commendable – something you’d expect from a country consistently ranked as a top place to live in the world. Take for example, how Canada bans usage of the term “university” except for institutions directly approved by the national government (either by an Act of the Legislature or by the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities) as specified under the Post-secondary Education Choice and Excellence Act.
How wonderful, right? NOT when people like Peter Chung from the Eminata Group have been paying off Canada’s Liberal Party – and the Minister of Colleges – millions of dollars in “donations” to retain their phony “university” title.
There is, of course, a still more shocking feature of higher education in Canada: the complete lack of accreditation agencies; instead, provincial or territorial governments are solely responsible for approving an institution who wishes to issue college degrees at their own discretion. The situation is so prone to corruption, with evermore blurred lines between public and private institutions competing for students, that it lead the Chinese government to post a warning to students about studying in Canada.
And what happens when unaccredited public colleges are competing with unaccredited for-profit colleges? You get things like the University of British Columbia – arguably the most “prestigious” university in western Canada – offering $2,000+ “accelerated” online courses in things like “Search Engine Optimization” (which, interestingly, they immediately deleted from their website after being called out by Wealthy Affiliate).
Poor Quality, Transparency, And Service
Canada is the only country in the CollegeTimes database whose public colleges have just as poor – or worse – student review averages than their for-profit counterparts.
Take for example Durham College, or George Brown College, or Humber College, or Centennial College, or Conestoga College, all of which are public institutions largely focused on career training. Nowhere else in the world are there “public” colleges focused on entry-level technical skills that so aggressively market to foreign students (in the US, the equivalent would be local community colleges with cheap fees and students largely from the surrounding area). And when these international students arrive, they seem utterly shocked to find a a school with outrageous prices, teaching them basic skills, and seemingly focused on nothing but their recruiting efforts:
“Ruined!!! my life is a waste now… i am an international student from india ( Batala ) in the final year of my computer diploma at progress campus and i feel stranded mid-way. No one is listening to me. They cheated me in my CO-OP term, i wasn’t paid a penny and was told you will have a job post studies there. That was all a big LIE. I was left to suffer alone. Nor did they assist me in my CV. All my parents money has gone waste…” – Centennial College student
It gets worse. Durham College literally tried to expand into India – and Panama:
“…they once tried to expand internationally without first receiving permission from their board of governors and ended up getting sued for $3,000,000 by students who had already paid before they pulled the plug.” – Durham College student
Here’s the recently posted view of a local Canadian attending Conestoga College:
“I also suspect that although their international student numbers may grow due to sheer ignorance… their numbers will drop in respect to Ontario student applications. It is a shame because they have a beautiful facility, and a thriving community. Due to greed, and a poor, short sited, corporate model they are going to eventually loose the support of this wonderful community. Most of us in Cambridge, Kitchener Waterloo, choose Conestoga based on appearance and location but Conestoga forgets we are the community and we won’t forget how we have been treated.” – Conestoga College student
As part of CollegeTimes efforts to test the transparency of institutions around the world, our team looks for basic contact information, accurate photography, and other should-be readily available information. Time and again, Canada ranks at the bottom in terms of transparency – using fake stock photos in marketing materials, hiding their email address from consumers, and refusing to reply to information requests. I leave you with an eerie 2008 quote from the Academica consulting firm:
“According to an internal government review obtained by the Vancouver Sun, Canada places so few restrictions on foreign students that the country’s student-visa system is open to widespread abuse and fraud. The report notes that rules are so lax that students cannot be deported even if they never show up for class. The review was ordered last year after a previous audit uncovered rampant student-visa fraud in BC. Because of the problems, Canada’s student-visa system could affect the country’s reputation as a provider of quality education and pose threats to national security and safety.” – Academica consulting group
I’m sorry to say it, but the truth is that – with a few very rare exceptions – Canada has catastrophically failed at creating world-class higher education up until now. And unless they are willing to initiate a legitimate accreditation process, focus on educating Canadians first and foremost, and seriously crack down on student visa abuse, their reputation will continue to spiral downward in the face of growing competition.