Ex-students at George Brown say program left them unqualified
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, August 27, 2009 8:26PM EDT
TORONTO - Former students of Toronto's George Brown College are alleging they were misled into taking a program that left them unqualified in their field, just days after the province's ombudsman confirmed similar complaints at another Ontario college.
Two students who took the International Business Management program at George Brown claim it didn't have the ability to confer the industry designations it promised.
Katrina Ramdath and Zsolt Kovessy launched a lawsuit against the college last October and are seeking $10 million in damages. Their lawyer, Victoria Paris, said a court date has been set for January.
The proposed class-action lawsuit against George Brown has not been certified by the courts, and the allegations have not been proven in court.
Ramdath, 26, said she quit her job at a bank to take the college's post-graduate program in January 2008, hoping it would pave the way for a higher-paying job in international trade.
The course calendar said the program would provide students with "the opportunity to complete three industry designations/certifications" in addition to a graduate certificate from the college, according to the students' statement of claim.
"The plaintiffs as well as other class members learned that they would not be receiving the industry designations upon completion of the defendant's program," the suit alleges.
"The (college) made representations with respect to its program which were untrue, inaccurate or misleading."
Brian Stock, a spokesman for the college, declined to respond to the allegations outlined in the lawsuit.
"We take the matter seriously and we respect the process of the courts," he said.
"Obviously, the value and integrity of our credentials is vitally important to our students and the industries we serve, and that's why the issue is a very serious one for us."
Stock did not say whether the college had filed a statement of defence with the court.
Ramdath finished the eight-month program only to discover that the college didn't have a partnership with the three industry associations, she said.
"We all gave up our jobs and a lot of us had to move away from home, and we paid rent downtown," she said.
"And to find out that all we got was just a George Brown certificate -- just a post-graduate diploma, we didn't get anything in addition to that -- it was devastating for us."
The students weren't even eligible to write the exams necessary to obtain the industry designations without paying additional fees, completing other courses or submitting proof of work experience, the suit alleges.
It claims the college was negligent and breached the Consumer Protection Act by including the industry designations in its description of the program in 2007 and 2008.
It also alleges the college changed the program's description after some of the students complained, saying the program could "prepare students to pursue" the industry designations.
Ramdath, now works for her family's business answering phones and making sales calls. Her current salary is "not even close" to what she earned at the bank.
"I had to move back home with my mom and dad," Ramdath said.
"I don't have my own car, I borrow my mom's. So I am fortunate, because I have my parents here to support me."
Earlier this year, 11 students who graduated from the Health Information Management program at Sudbury's Cambrian College complained that it is unaccredited and did not adequately qualify them for jobs in their chosen field.
Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin concluded that the province "abdicated" its responsibility to ensure the students were getting the education they paid for and recommended that the school compensate the students.
He warned that if the ministry didn't monitor the college programs it funded more strictly, there would be more cases like it.
"We will see more students like the young people we interviewed --several of them trying to make a better life for themselves and their young children -- who gave up two years of their lives and wound up doing dead-end work instead of the job of their dreams," he said Tuesday in releasing the report.
"Those students should be able to turn to their government when its publicly funded institutions let them down. The ministry was not there for them in this case, and I hope it has learned a valuable lesson."
The report was the second in as many months that criticized how the Ministry of Colleges and Universities regulates college programs.