Atlantica College abruptly closes in Saint John, leaves students with 'absolutely nothing'
School 'well over' 30K in arrears for computer equipment, technical support, says Windsor Holdings
Students who signed up for a $34,000 3D animation program in Saint John showed up Wednesday at the Atlantica College in Market Square to find their classroom stripped of all computer equipment.
Amber McGuire-Oursien, 29, says she had taken out student loans to finish the two-year program in May 2020 and thus far, owed $15,000.
"I was there last night late, working on some stuff, and IT came in and told me they were doing major work in there and that I had to leave," said McGuire-Oursien.
"Today, we went in and everything was gone. We couldn't get a hold of anybody from the school. The teachers didn't know what was going on. The building managers didn't know what was going on."
The tuition is supposed to include the cost of a sophisticated computer workstation that students take with them, when they graduate.
I don't know what any of us are going to do.- Amber McGuire-Oursien, student
But on Friday, just days before the school shuttered, students were asked to sign a release, acknowledging that their computers were financed by Windsor Holdings.
The letter instructed the students to keep all computers on the property until all invoices due to Windsor Holdings were paid in full by the owners of Atlantica College or their successors.
The letter was signed by Jeffrey Peterson, director and operations manager for Windsor Holdings.
Reached by phone, Peterson confirmed that the equipment was removed from the premises Tuesday night.
He said for the past four years, his company had provided equipment as well as technical support at the Market Square location but that Atlantica College is "well over" $30,000 in arrears.
Peterson said every effort was made to reach the owners to discuss some kind of repayment plan, but no answers were forthcoming.
"The students are the only reason this went on for as long as it did," he said.
The registered owners of Atlantica College are Marc Raymond Gosselin and Jim Kuehnel.
CBC News could not reach them on their listed business numbers.
Late Tuesday evening, McGuire-Oursien received an email that she said was directed to all students from Jim Kuehnel.
It read: "Several attempts to have Atlantica College taken over have been met by insurmountable roadblocks by the New Brunswick Department of Post-Secondary Education Training and Labour and BDC, which leaves the company no option but to cease operations immediately."
It goes on to say: "In regards to the computers that were removed from the premises, we have initiated a police action in this matter and we are awaiting further word from them."
Provincial officials to meet with students
On Atlantica's website, under "frequently asked questions," the college says it is registered with the Province of New Brunswick under the Private Occupational Training Act and that all students pay a protection fee as part of their registration.
The college says that money goes to the province "like an insurance policy" and is designed to "protect students financially" so that if the school should close, the department would find a suitable replacement so the students can complete their education.
The Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour said it was aware of the situation and is collecting information on the school's closure.
"Students are being contacted by the department who will meet with them in person by the end of the week to inform them of their rights under the Private Occupational Training Act," said Sarah Bustard in an email.
McGuire-Oursien said there were seven other students in her program, and she knew three others who had graduated but had yet to receive their diplomas.
"My whole world has been ripped right out of me in a matter of hours," she said.
"I planned on going to Vancouver or Montreal to go and work in a studio. This leaves me with absolutely nothing."
"I don't know what any of us are going to do."