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Lifelong dream at risk after college revokes acceptance letters

'I'm literally taking sleeping pills so that I can sleep,' says one of 503 international students affected by Northern College's decision
Deepak Chatri is one of 503 international students who had their admission to Northern College revoked recently.

Deepak Chatri said it was a lifelong “dream” to be accepted to a Canadian postsecondary institution. 

It’s an expensive dream. 

A one-way ticket from his home in northern India cost over $2,000 — while tuition at Timmins' Northern College, the school that accepted his application for a one-year post-graduate program — runs over $16,000 for international students.

Chatri’s dream is now on hold, following Northern College’s decision to revoke acceptance letters for 503 international students — many hailing from India — after the number of student visas issued by the federal Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship far exceeded the school’s capacity to run programs.

Chatri, who received his student visa in March, said the stress of being turned away just weeks before his arrival in Canada has caused insufferable stress on his family.

He’s now struggling through sleepless nights as he ponders his future.

“It's terrible news for me because we do not belong to a wealthy family,” Chatri said. “We don't have that kind of money to spend. We have my younger brother also. So it's my responsibility to go to Canada, earn money and pay for his future.”

Chatri said his father had to secure a $17,000 loan to pay for his eldest son’s one-year program in Information Technology. The family is now making payments on that amount, despite the questions about Deepak’s future.

In an email to TimminsToday, Northern College president and CEO Audrey Penner said they didn’t make the decision to revoke admission letters “lightly or in haste.”

“When we learned that the programs at Pures College of Technology had exceeded capacity, we made the difficult decision to revoke admission for 503 students,” Penner said.

“A program that is stretched beyond capacity will not provide the quality of educational experience that our students deserve.”

Pures College of Technology is a Toronto-based designated learning institution (DLI). A DLI is a school approved by a provincial or territorial government to host international students.

Before being issued a student visa, applicants need to be accepted by one of the country’s DLIs. According to the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship’s website, there are over 500 such schools in Ontario alone.

In an email to students, a spokesperson with Pures College said they are investigating the revocation orders through “available channels".

“At Pures College, we are committed to maintaining the highest standards of fairness and transparency in our admission process,” the email reads. “The revocation of your letter of acceptance is a matter of serious concern to us, and we assure you that we are following up with Northern College (Timmins) on this matter on a priority basis.”

The Ministry of Immigration had not yet responded to TimminsToday's interview request. A spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities said in an email that as an autonomous institution, Northern College has sole authority over the admissions process by their partners, including Pures College.

“Our office has engaged regularly with both Northern and Pures to communicate our expectation that they work together to find solutions that respect the best interests of students,” the ministry said.

“Any further questions should be directed to Northern and Pures for comment.”

Penner, who has led the Timmins-based college since 2020, said the school is working with the students on transfers to other colleges, or issuing refunds.

“Of those 503 students, we have managed more than half of the applicants. Over 50 per cent have either selected refunds or were not continuing,” Penner said in her email. “Some applicants had either not secured visas, not yet paid their fees or already withdrawn their applications.”

“For the remaining students, we are working diligently with them to find alternative solutions, including transferring to another of Northern College’s multiple campuses; deferring their admission; transferring their acceptance to another postsecondary institution; or providing a full or partial refund for any tuition fees already paid.”

Despite having a student visa, Chatri said most of the other schools have already hit their admissions limits and aren’t accepting new students this winter.

Even if he does find room at another campus, there’s also the issue of paying more tuition as Northern processes the $16,000-plus refund, which could take weeks, even months.

That means that students like Chatri could be expected to pay tuition at two schools while waiting for reimbursement from Northern College.

A tall order for many families in India, Chatri said.

“Getting this letter from Northern College just put a lot of pressure on my family. Not only financially, but mentally also,” Chatri said.

“I'm literally taking sleeping pills so that I can sleep,” Chatri said. “I don't have enough words to explain.”

As for his next steps, Chatri said he might be at loose ends for a few months while this situation gets sorted out. He’s taking French lessons and will likely find temporary work while he continues to work on his family’s dream of seeing their kids off to study in Canada.

He also has very pointed suggestions for Northern College. 

"Northern College should offer apartments or buildings for those students, or they can teach us online,” he said.

One thing is certain for Chatri. He said Northern should accept all 503 students that were turned away,

“If they don't, my whole year will just go to waste, and I can't do anything about it.”

— TimminsToday