Everest College shuts down campuses, fate of students in limbo

Keith Leslie, The Canadian Press, and Mari-Len De Guzman
February 20, 2015
By Keith Leslie, The Canadian Press, and Mari-Len De Guzman
Ontario has shut down American-based Everest College, which operates 14 private career schools across the province and offering help to students try to recover some of their tuition payments. The superintendent of private career colleges suspended all Everest College campus activities, which government officials say will prevent it from declaring bankruptcy, at least in the short term.
The suspension will affect about 2,450 students, including several dozens enrolled in its massage therapy program, and 450 staff at Everest College, which announced last summer that it was looking to sell off or close down all its campuses in Ontario.

Colleges and Universities Minister Reza Moridi says officials from his office will be at every Everest campus, including at night classes, to give students information about what they can do next.

Students will be offered help to find another career college they can transfer to and complete their education or apply for a refund from a $3 million fund set up for that purpose.

However, there are no guarantees anyone will get a full refund of their tuition fees.

Everest has 15 days to seek a hearing before Ontario's Licence Appeal Tribunal of the superintendent's decision.

“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,” the ministry said in a release.

“One of the main priorities during this process 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.”

Some instructors from Everest College’s massage therapy program are also trying to help their students transition to another school.

According to Mary Ellen Logan, director of academics at the Ontario College of Health and Technology (OCHT) in Stoney Creek, Ont., at least two instructors – and some individual students – have already approached her to find out if the school can help with transitioning the displaced students.

“I’ve asked them to provide us with the course outlines or the transcripts of what the students have taken,” Logan said, “because for us to come up with some kind of a plan for them to transition in, I just want to see at what point they were in their program, what courses have they taken and what courses they still have to take.”

Logan added she is also awaiting directions from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities about the fate of the affected students. She said the ministry will ultimately have to put in place a plan for the students – whether to issue a full or partial refund, or allow them to transition to other schools to continue their education.

“We really hope we can help,” said Logan. “We’re just waiting for direction from the ministry to give us permission to do so.”

OCHT offers a two-year massage therapy program, with 27 hours a week of class time in each of the five semesters.

Logan said transitioning students and crediting the courses they have already taken at Everest should not be a huge concern, particularly for massage therapy students, as Ontario colleges are governed by a standard curriculum set by the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario.

Even so, Logan said the students who are potentially transferring from Everest would still need to be assessed to make sure they meet OCHT’s curriculum requirements.

The Canadian Everest campuses are owned by Corinthian Colleges, a California-based company which owns 107 college campuses across North America and also offers degrees online.

Allegations of falsifying job placement data used in marketing claims to prospective students at one of the company's U.S. campuses triggered an investigation by the U.S. Education Department, which eventually led to a severe cash shortage at the company when federal funds were withheld.

As a result, Corinthian Colleges agreed to close 12 campuses in 11 states and place the rest of its campuses up for sale, including those in Canada.

Everest operated campuses across Ontario, in Barrie, Brampton, Hamilton, Kitchener, Mississauga, Newmarket, Ottawa, Toronto, Sudbury and Windsor.

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