The North Star


Failing en masse, high retake fees

Have Canadian universities found a new way to empty international students’ pockets?

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This January, international students at Algoma University's Brampton campus organized to protest the failing of 132 out of 230 classmates, in Professor Klaus Peltsch's class, without due transparency nor justification. When students emailed for feedback, they would either be left unanswered or even blocked.

Already paying $22,000 to $24,000 in tuition fees, failed students would be required to pay an additional $3,500 to retake the exam. After 5 days of permanent protests outside the university in freezing cold conditions, 100 of them received passing grades and the remaining students were given the option of doing a make-up exam at no cost. No explanation was provided for why they were low to begin with.

Soon after, students from 4 other courses with exams assessed by Pelham Matthews have also been failed in a mass scale, at a rate of 38% in one class. Students now call for a meeting with the Dean as a committee.

In a statement, Algoma University accused students of protesting just to get an easy pass and better grades. However, their demand was for fair re-evaluation, greater transparency in the grading process and accountability. Students are calling out this mass failing a cash grab: had all the students paid the additional fees to retake the exam, Algoma university would have made $462,000.

In 2023 alone, Algoma made $142.8 million in revenue, and $43 million in profit. As Amardeep Kuar put it, a supportive sessional lecturer at the University of Toronto, "one of the biggest issue is the education system in Canada is increasingly becoming about making profits and exploiting international students because they pay international student fees."

This is not the first time that a college has disproportionately failed high numbers of international students. This is happening while the number of them coming into Canada is record high, the federal government has now introduced new measures to limit international student permits for two years. In some provinces, the total reduction in permits will be almost 50%.

Picture credited to Punjab News Express

Immigration minister Marc Miller has said this is a way of addressing housing unaffordability, and taking action on private colleges that are taking advantage of international students with under-resourced campuses, exorbitant tuition fees and fake degrees. Miller says these measures are not against individual international students. 

But with this cap affecting institutions profitability with lower enrolment, it's international students who are made to pay the price. It could reduce scam colleges and universities revenues significantly, and this new trend towards mass-failing, thus extracting additional fees from already enrolled students, seems to correlate with recent government announcements.

Besides mass failing and high retake costs, students at Algoma described having to pay an extra fee just to use the campus bathroom, a very high student-to-professor ratio, and asynchronized recorded lectures with no interaction between professor and students.

Khushpal Grewal, from Montreal Youth Student Org (MYSO), described an incident where a student in the business program failed 3 subjects in her first semester by a professor she never had the opportunity of meeting, and was told by the university she would have to pay $35 an hour to retake the courses.

In 2023, international students have also been faced with homelessness, deportation, and stolen wages. Last September, hundreds of international students set up a permanent protest to fight the lack of accommodation in North Bay until Canadore College conceded to offer students a rate of $400 a month to stay at motel rooms. And before that, in July 2023, 100 international students were threatened with deportation after being duped by fraud immigration officers. After 18 days of protest outside the Canada Border Services Agency, the deportations were postponed until further investigation.

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