Students sue George Brown for $10M

From the Toronto Star

Aug 28, 2009 04:30 AM
Raveena Aulakh
Staff reporter

Two days after the provincial ombudsman lambasted the government for failing to protect college students, another group of students has alleged their college left them unqualified in their field and on the hook for enormous debt.

Two former students, who took the International Business Management program at Toronto’s George Brown College, claim it didn’t confer three important industry designations it had promised.

"I left a full-time job and went back to school because I wanted better opportunities," said Katrina Ramdath yesterday. "I found later the three certificates that are essential if you want jobs in international trade … were not there."

She alleges the college advertised them but didn’t have agreements in place to offer the three certificates.

Ramdath and Zsolt Kovessy, another student, launched a lawsuit against the college last year and are seeking $10 million in damages.

"I have a debt and I haven’t been able to find work," said Ramdath, who worked at Royal Bank of Canada before going back to school. She says she spent between $18,000 and $20,000 from January 2008 to August 2008 while attending the eight-month program. "There was tuition, books, living expenses. … It’s so expensive to live downtown."

Brian Stock, a spokesperson for the college, declined to comment on the allegations yesterday. "Our credentials are important and we protect them," he said.

Their lawsuit comes on the heels of a report released by Ombudsman André Marin that found the Health Information Management program at Cambrian College also left graduates unqualified in their field.

Earlier this year, 11 students who graduated from the Sudbury college’s program complained that it is unaccredited and did not adequately qualify them for jobs.

Marin’s report was the second in as many months that criticizes how the Ministry of Colleges and Universities regulates college programs.

"The ministry assured me it is concerned about accountability, but I found its response weak and disappointing," said Marin after releasing the report Tuesday.

"I am very concerned that if it does not implement stricter monitoring of the college programs it funds, we will see more cases like this."

Marin wasn’t available yesterday to comment on the George Brown College case, but an official at his office said they were aware of the lawsuit. "It’s quite common to see similar complaints when reports are released," said Linda Williamson, director of communications.

Meanwhile, Ramdath, who has moved back in with her parents, is still looking for a job. She has tentative plans to go back to school again but wonders if she’ll ever be able to repay all the debt. "I just want more light on these issues. I hope the ministry takes a good, long look at these colleges and how they are impacting students."

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