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College’s partnership deal brought windfall to city

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Troy Shantz
When Sarnia announced recently Cestar College was donating $4 million to help build the Sarnia-Lambton oversized load corridor it prompted some head scratching locally.

Why would a private college in Toronto give so much money to a city 300 kilometres away? Especially when the school’s only tangible return is to have a new wharf at Sarnia Harbour named “Cestar Dock.”

The Cestar College of Business, Health and Technology was founded as a private career college in 2007. Three years later it signed a partnership agreement with Lambton College and began training Lambton students at its 35,000-square-foot Toronto campus.

Cestar director Adrian Sharma said the school is currently training 3,500 international students using Lambton’s licensed program material. According to its website, Cestar offers four programs and 11 courses.

“We’ve had a good relationship that’s worked out for both of us,” said Sharma, adding the $4-million gift is meant as a symbol of Cestar’s connection to Sarnia.

“It’s a philanthropic donation. We’re looking at an eight year-plus relationship (with Lambton College),” he said.

Sharma said he met several times with Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley and Ontario Infrastructure Ministry officials to discuss the donation. Lambton College had no say in it, he said.

Before settling on the heavy load corridor, other potential projects were discussed, including a building for student housing, a library, and a community centre, Sharma said.

Each was rejected because of the ongoing operating costs Sarnia would be responsible for, he said.

While international students at Cestar are attending a private college they are Lambton College students and pay public college tuition and fees, which are significantly lower than private college costs, Sharma said.

“The students who are at the Toronto campus here… they actually belong to Lambton College. So we have a relationship with Lambton College directly where we train their students – their international ones,” said Sharma.

“It’s a unique arrangement.”

According to Lambton’s website, that arrangement offers visiting students a chance to study in a large city with access to a different job market.

Students can transfer to the Sarnia campus within the first 10 days of their program, with special permission from Lambton’s dean of international education.

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