Compensation hope for students in college collapse

STUDENTS left in limbo after college closures may soon be able to claim compensation for more than just lost tuition fees.

The amendment to the Federal Government’s Education and Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Bill has already been passed by the Senate and will be debated in Parliament later this month.

Currently, affected students are not given a refund for prepaid accommodation and other services when their colleges collapse, regardless of how much they’ve lost.

The ammendment follows the closure of eight English language schools nationwide run by a group of companies called GEOS.

The collapse has left 2300 students without a college, and thousands of dollars owing to some of these students.

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) confirmed in a student information document that GEOS would not be able to pay students back.

Australian Federation of International Students (AFIS) honorary president Wesa Chau supported the proposed amendment.

She said it was unfair to expect students to bear the extra costs incurred through no fault of their own.

She said the recent college closures had left some students homeless.

“They prepaid GEOS for accommodation and now they don’t have money to pay rent elsewhere,” Ms Chau said.

“They need confirmation fast and also support for those who are in the unfortunate situation of paying for alternative accommodation.”

Sue Blundell, executive director of English Australia, the industry group which the eight GEOS colleges were part, said GEOS students were being transferred to other colleges.

“Obviously this has been a traumatic experience for students affected. We will place them in a course with another English Australia college in their city free of charge,” Ms Blundell said.

“They will not have to pay any money for tuition that they already paid GEOS for.”

The Melbourne branch of the GEOS group is being investigated by the Victorian Registration and Qualification Authority (VRQA).

In a statement, VRQA director Lynn Glover said the registration and qualification authority found the group’s directors had been diverting revenue from GEOS Melbourne to support other holdings in Australia and overseas.

“The VRQA has written to the Administrators requesting a meeting to ensure they understand the need to support and protect the interests of students,” Ms Glover said.

“It is not possible to predict the outcome of the administrative arrangements, but the VRQA will ensure that student’s rights are protected throughout the process.”

Students affected by the GEOS closure should submit a relocation request form, which can be downloaded from the English Australia website.

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