Information for Students Choosing the Right Program

Private career colleges are privately owned and operated. They must be registered and have their programs approved under the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005 administered by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

Registration of a college under the Act means that it has met the requirements set out in Regulation 415/06, regarding program quality, instructor qualifications, advertising and refund policies. You must take the same care and precautions when choosing a program as you would take when making any other major purchase.
The colleges offer many programs in each occupational area. The ministry is currently working to introduce a credentials framework and program standards for the private career college sector. Until these are in place, programs may vary in terms of the subject matter that will be covered. For example, one program in “Radio” may teach radio repair, while another may prepare a person for a position with a broadcasting company. It is suggested that you contact the colleges offering the programs that interest you and request detailed information prior to entering into formal arrangements with any one college.
Although two or more registered private career colleges may offer programs with similar titles, this does not mean that the programs are of equal merit or will be of equal value to the student. It is your responsibility as a student to decide which college and programs best meet your needs. Your assessment of a college should include not only the program content but also the facility, the equipment and the calibre of the instructors; all of these aspects should be assessed in relation to the cost of the program.

Vocational vs. Non-Vocational Programs

Vocational programs offered by private career colleges are designed to provide students with the practical skills and knowledge for a job in a particular occupation. Completing one of these programs provides the successful graduate with the potential for employment in the occupation for which training was given. Colleges offering these programs are required to register under the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005 and the vocational programs they offer must be approved by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.

Many institutions however offer training that does not lead directly to employment. For example, programs such as driving instruction for non-commercial vehicles, speed-reading, health and fitness and tax preparation are non-vocational in nature and are not required to be approved by the Superintendent of Private Career Colleges.
You should ensure that the wording “approved” or “does not require approval under the PCCA” is clearly specified in any contract that is signed before starting a program as a student at a private career college.

To obtain specific information about particular programs, students should contact the colleges that interest them and request information relating to costs, program content, length of training, entrance requirements and starting dates for courses. You can search a list of the registered private career colleges in Ontario at www.ServiceOntario.ca for information on where they are located, the programs they are approved to offer, program length and the fees charged. More information about what kinds of program and institutions may be exempt under the Act can be found in the following document: The Private Career Colleges Act, 2005 : Fact Sheet #1 – Exemptions Under the Act.

Enrolling in a Private Career College

Enrolment Contract

Once you have decided that a program is the right one for you, it is time to make sure that you are enrolled properly. Enrolment in a registered private career college must be done by you (the student) and the private career college signing a written enrolment contract similar to the ministry sample contract. The college is responsible for providing those educational services that are outlined in its contract. This contract must be signed by both the student and the college’s owner or representative. Both parties to the contract should retain a copy. You have a two day “cooling off” period after you sign the contract to decide if you really want to take the program. If you change your mind and inform the college in writing before the end of the two days, you are entitled to a full refund of all fees you paid including any application fee.
Any enrolment contract signed after September 18, 2006 must include the following:

      • The name, address, telephone number and email address of the student
      • Approved name of the program
      • The start and expected completion date of the program
      • The language of instruction for the program
      • The admission requirements for the program
      • A list of fees payable by the student for the program and payment schedules, cited in Canadian dollars
      • Statements that (1) the PCC’s does not guarantee employment to students or prospective students who complete the program and (2) the contract is subject to the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005 and the regulations made under the Act
      • Your initials acknowledging receipt of the PCC’s refund policy
      • Your initials acknowledging receipt of the Statement of Students’ Rights and Responsibilities
      • A copy of the request for consent to provide personal information to the Superintendent for the purposes of training completion, refunds and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
      • Your initials acknowledging receipt of the PCC’s complaint procedure and expulsion policy (This section is required to be in place by January 1, 2007 for existing PCC’s)
      • The schedule of hours of instruction
      • The location of the practicum; if applicable
Do Your Homework Before You Decide
  • You should evaluate your aptitude realistically and decide (a) whether you have the physical and mental qualities and the educational background required to benefit from the chosen program, and (b) whether you are willing to devote the time and energy required to succeed in the program.
  • Prior to enrolling in a private career college, you should ensure that the college is registered to operate in Ontario. You should be aware that you are entitled to student protection under the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005 only if you enroll in an approved program offered at a registered private career college.
  • You should look at the total cost, including the registration fee, tuition, laboratory fees, books, transportation, room and board and incidental costs. You should also examine the contract with care to find out what it would cost you if you decide to leave the program before your training is completed. Repayment of any debts incurred as a result of attending the program, such as OSAP or other loans, should also be considered.
  • You should ensure that all aspects of the training program, including all tuition costs, the duration of the program, the starting date and refund policies are stated in the enrolment contract. You should read the contract and be sure you understand it before signing it (see Enrolment Contract).
  • You should visit the college and see the facilities and equipment. If possible, you should talk with some of the college’s students, graduates and employers who have hired graduates of the college.
Programs in Apprenticeship Trades

Some private career colleges offer programs in skilled trades that are regulated under the Trades Qualification and Apprenticeship Act and the Apprenticeship and Certification Act, 1998 (e.g. motor vehicle mechanic, hairstylist, or carpenter). Some skilled trades require individuals to be registered as an apprentice, or to hold a Certificate of Apprenticeship or Certificate of Qualification in order to obtain employment. See the Apprentices section of this website for more information on apprenticeship.

Distance Education Programs

Hundreds of programs may be studied through distance education (e.g. correspondence or internet learning), but not all of these prepare students for employment in a particular job. Before enrolling in these types of programs you should consider not only if the content of the program suits your learning needs but also if non-classroom learning is the best option for you. Programs offered by institutions that do not have a physical presence in Ontario do not require registration under the Act. More information on institutional exemptions under the Act and a description of ‘physical presence’ can be found in the document The Private Career Colleges Act, 2005: Fact Sheet #1 – Exemptions Under the Act

Admission Requirements

Private career colleges deliver postsecondary level training and education. In order to be enrolled in a program, students must meet one of the following admission requirements before the vocational program commences:

  • Have an Ontario Secondary School Diploma or equivalent, or
    Be at least 18 years of age and pass a qualifying test approved by the Superintendent, or
  • Meet other academic qualifications or minimum age requirements established as a condition of the Superintendent’s approval of the program, and
    Have met all additional admission requirements established by the PCC’s for the program.

Students are reminded that some employers require a Grade 12 diploma as a qualification of employment even if a postsecondary training program has been successfully completed. Information about any additional or special admission requirements should be obtained from the college of your choice, as well as from employers in your chosen occupational areas.

Financial Assistance for Students

A limited number of registered private career colleges are eligible to participate in various government financial assistance programs for students. Normally this assistance applies only to courses of twelve weeks’ duration or longer that require Grade 12 or equivalent standing for enrolment. For more complete details, visit the website of the Ontario Student Assistance Program.

Filing a Complaint Against a Private Career College Complaint Process After January 1, 2007

Effective January 1, 2007 every private career college must have a student complaint procedure that meets the requirements under the Act. If you are not satisfied with the college’s response to a complaint you can submit the complaint for a review by the Superintendent of Private Career Colleges. You must go through the college’s complaint procedure before the Superintendent will investigate a complaint. If you are not satisfied with the decision made by the college at the end of the college’s student complaint process, you may then complete a Student Complaint Form and the Superintendent will investigate whether the college has committed a violation under the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005.

Review by the Superintendent

Both you and the private career college will be provided with a written response from the Superintendent to your complaint usually within 3-4 weeks from when it was received. More complicated or incomplete complaints may take longer to process.

Further information may be obtained from:

Private Institution Branch, Program Accountability Unit
Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities
10th Floor, Mowat Block
900 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1L2
Telephone: (416) 314-0500 or 1-866-330-3395
Fax: (416) 314-0499
E-mail: PIB@Ontario.ca

Further information may be obtained from:

Ontario Association of Career Colleges
274 Colborne Street East
2nd Floor
Brantford, Ontario N3T 2H5
Telephone: (519) 752-2124
Fax: (519) 752-3649

Website: www.oacc.on.ca