Pearson school board warns international students not to pay tuition to private company

Already facing an anti-corruption investigation and an Education Ministry audit, the Lester B. Pearson School Board is warning international students not to pay their tuition to a “privately owned enterprise” called LBP Vocational College.

Facing UPAC investigation, Education Ministry audit, Pearson board ‘restructures’ international department

A bright red warning now appears on the International Careers page of the Lester B. Pearson School Board.

With an anti-corruption investigation and an Education Ministry audit already underway, the Lester B. Pearson School Board is now warning international students to pay their tuition directly to the board and not to a "privately owned enterprise," which it says is in no way affiliated with the board.

Last week, Quebec Education Minister Sébastien Proulx ordered an audit of the Pearson board, as well as the English Montreal School Board. Both boards are also under investigation by UPAC.

Now, a large red warning label has gone up on the webpage of the  Lester B. Pearson board's International Studies program, which reads:

To All International Vocational Students,

Please note that all tuition fees/transfers need to be paid ONLY to 'Lester B. Pearson School Board'. The name 'LBP Vocational College' refers to a privately owned enterprise with no affiliation to the Lester B Pearson School Board so tuitions paid to this entity ARE NOT payments made to the school board.

A company named LBP Vocational College was registered in Quebec in January 2014 by Naveen Kolan, who provides a home address in Toronto.

A person by the same name, with a home address in Brampton, Ont., is the founder of Edu Edge Inc., an international education marketing service that signed an agreement with the Lester B. Pearson School Board in 2012 to recruit students from India.

Naveen Kolan of Edu Edge Inc. signs an agreement with Lester B. Pearson School Board former chair Suanne Stein Day and former director general Robert Mills in 2012. (Edu Edge Inc./Facebook)
 A cached version of the Lester B. Pearson School Board website from May 1, 2016 shows the site used to include a page detailing the board's "exclusive partnership" with Edu Edge, but it no longer appears on the site.

The board's director general, Michael Chechile, would not comment on why the page no longer appears, as it concerns "a third party."

In an email, Chechile told CBC the warning message for students was added to the website as part of the board's "restructuring" of its international department.

"Part of the restructuring included reviewing past practices and centralizing administration," wrote Chechile. "Students have been told that all payments must be made to the Lester B. Pearson School Board."

Last month, the board's Chair Suanne Stein Day said the restructuring, and the dismissal of some employees, was done in order to "rectify the irregularities" within the international department.

Stein Day said the board started looking into those alleged irregularities a few months before it contacted the Education Ministry and UPAC about its concerns last spring.

Registered to different office

The address listed for LBP Vocational College in its registration is not listed anywhere on the Lester B. Pearson School Board's website, and it does not match up with any school or administrative office run by the school board.

The address is for a shared office suite, managed by a company that rents out short-term or virtual office space.

CBC attempted to contact Kolan of Edu Edge by phone and email Wednesday and Thursday but did not receive a response.