YouTuber Chorkor Millionaire is seen in a still from a video of an awards ceremony earlier in 2023.
“If you’ve been looking for the cheapest colleges in Canada, this is definitely one of the colleges you want to be looking at!”
That might have been the start of Aurora College’s problems.
On July 26, a YouTuber with more than 100,000 followers named Chorkor Millionaire published a video titled: “The Cheapest Canadian College with NO APPLICATION FEE | APPLY ASAP.”
He meant the Northwest Territories’ Aurora College.
In a video that featured screengrabs of the college’s website, he told viewers: “If you want to come in for next year, you want to apply on November 1, 2023. As you see on the screen, it will be opening for the general public to apply – so make sure that on November 1, you put in your application.”
The video was watched 28,000 times. Beneath it, dozens of commenters express thanks and ask more questions.
On November 2, at 5:35pm, Aurora College wrote on Facebook: “Due to the large number of international applications received November 1, applications for international students have been paused.
“Please note that any international applications received through the domestic student portal will be declined.”
Did a YouTube video break Aurora College’s admissions process?
‘Get some of these 80-percents’
First, some numbers.
Aurora College had received more than 1,200 applications as of Friday last week, the vast majority from international applicants. The college has received thousands upon thousands of emails. Email and application traffic is far, far greater than would normally be the case.
Only a handful of the college’s programs accept international applicants. In a normal year, around 10 international students actually arrive to study at Aurora College. More than a thousand applicants is off the chart.
Asked what had triggered such an influx, vice-president of student affairs Sarah Tilley – whose job involves responsibility for the college’s admissions office – said: “We seem to have reached, suddenly, a broader audience than we normally have reached in the past.”
Without directly specifying Chorkor Millionaire’s video, Tilley continued: “The best we can establish is there have been some social media personalities that have decided to, I guess, develop some guides to pursuing post-secondary in Canada, and they have hit upon Aurora College.
“It’s not official channels, that’s for sure. The information isn’t always accurate. The best we can tell is that’s really been the platform that has gotten a lot of the interest.”
The accuracy of the information is a big problem.
Chorkor Millionaire describes himself on his YouTube channel as someone who was “born in the slums of Chorkor in Accra, Ghana but refused to be defined by my environment.”
The description continues: “As someone who now lives overseas, I like to share with you important lessons of my experience of living in the two worlds.”
The man running the account appears to be based in Welland, Ontario. He was recently given two awards – Canada Influencer of the Year and Educational Content Creator of the Year – at a ceremony for Ghanaian-Canadian YouTubers that was published, naturally, on YouTube.
A message to a WhatsApp number posted on Chorkor Millionaire’s social media accounts was not returned.
Most of his videos focus on advice for people trying to immigrate from Ghana, Nigeria or other nations to the likes of Canada. Titles include:
“My agent charged me $6,000 and left me stranded”
“How to handle difficult family pressures if you live abroad”
“Visitors visa questions at Canada airport”
“Move to Canada NOW as a permanent resident/Use this tips”
Other colleges have also been featured in his videos, but few have more views than the one about Aurora College.
In that video, he states: “They provide 80-percent scholarships to eligible applicants … You want to make sure you are applying for scholarships. Definitely put in an application to see if you can get some of these 80-percents.
“It is absolutely free to apply to this college, there is no application fee at all.”
Many colleges in Canada charge an application fee, so one without a fee is enticing for people looking at education as a route toward reaching another country.
And the idea that a college would subsidize 80 percent of your costs is extremely attractive if you’re coming from a background where there isn’t much money to afford the usual fees charged to international students.
Unfortunately, the 80-percent part isn’t true.
The part of the college website to which he was referring is a section about Student Financial Assistance, a program only accessible to existing Northwest Territories residents. Even then, that’s not quite the same as an 80-percent scholarship.
In the comments beneath Chorkor Millionaire’s video, an account apparently belonging to an Aurora College member of staff can be seen trying to make similar points.
“Much of the info in this video is incorrect. The Student Financial Assistance referred to is ONLY available to residents of the Northwest Territories, Canada. We do not offer scholarships to international students,” the comment states.
But Chorkor Millionaire pushes back, asserting: “What is true is what I said and read, as captured on the website, that 80% of funding is available.”
A spokesperson for Aurora College said last week that the college’s website was being rewritten to make the funding situation clearer to international applicants, reaffirming: “International students cannot get Northwest Territories student financial aid.”
College sees positives
On the one hand, the flood of applicants to Aurora College is a frustration and distraction for the small number of staff trying to process applications.
College employees say domestic applicants should not worry, and any delay to the processing timeline should be only about a week or so.
Asked if Aurora College might have to add extra checks, balances or hurdles to the process next year to guard against a similar surge, Tilley said: “Those are going to be decisions that our board of governors is going to have to make.”
On the other hand, this is at least recognition – even if it’s unorthodox recognition, partly based on inaccuracies – for a college that does genuinely want to attract more students.
Tilley said Aurora College had “worked very hard” for the past year on a student recruitment plan that staff are proud of. So to see a rapid influx of applications, no matter the source, could be “quite a positive thing,” she said.
“It does come with challenges,” Tilley acknowledged.
“Our staff are having to figure out the communication aspect and things like that – how to look at our processes, how can we deal with these applications as efficiently as possible?
“I would just like make sure that any northerner knows we are still open for northern applications. Our programs are not by any means full. Northern students are our priorities and we will make sure we have seats for them if they are interested in applying.”
Northern students may also be more prepared to overlook one of the only drawbacks Chorkor Millionaire listed in his video.
He takes a moment to tell his viewers: “I must warn you – it’s one of the coldest places.”