Private career colleges have their own policies and procedures, but also follow government guidelines developed to help program providers meet their commitments to students and industry.
Student enrolment contracts
When a potential student chooses to enrol in a licensed program offered by a private career college in Alberta, they must sign an Alberta Student Enrolment Contract. The contract outlines, among other things:
- student rights and responsibilities
- details about registration fees and a 4-day cooling off period after the contract is signed
- information about refunds and withdrawals
- what happens if the private career college does not provide the agreed-upon training
Licensed training providers can access the Alberta Student Enrolment Contract on the Providers SharePoint site (password protected).
Before the contract is signed
Before a potential student signs an Alberta Student Enrolment Contract, private career colleges must provide them with a:
- program outline
- written description of rules and policies for students taking the program
- report sharing the graduation and job placement rates for the program
This helps students make informed choices about the licensed career programs they want to take.
Making a facility tour available to potential students, including an opportunity to meet with an instructor, is also valuable. Students should be able to see classrooms, facilities, and equipment.
Private career colleges are not able to guarantee potential students a job, specific wage, or salary after they graduate to get them to sign a contract.
When the contract is signed
Alberta Student Enrolment Contracts are signed after the college confirms the potential student meets the licensed program's admission requirements. The contract confirms the student’s enrolment to the program, as well as its start and end dates.
The student signs the contract regardless of who pays their tuition.
Use the Alberta Student Enrolment Contract template
Every private career college is required to use the contract template provided by the Government of Alberta. Colleges can find the template on the Provider SharePoint site (password required).
Although colleges personalize the template for their use, they do not have the authority to make any changes to the contract's content. If they do, their student contracts will be voided and they could face compliance action.
Payment of registration and tuition fees
Once the contract is signed, the student may be asked to pay a registration fee of no more than $500. When the student starts their training program, this amount is applied to their tuition. Private colleges are not able to start collecting tuition from students until their program start date.
This fee is refundable if the:
- student cancels their contract within 4 days of signing it
- private career college terminates the contract before training begins
- program doesn't start on the date scheduled in the contract
Students not seeking employment
If the potential student says they're taking the program for personal interest, or to update existing skills, they must complete an Acknowledgement Form for Students Not Seeking Employment. This will make sure they are not included in the licensed program's annual job placement rate. Private colleges can find this form on the Provider SharePoint site.
After the contract is signed
Any changes made to the contract after it’s signed must be agreed to and initialled by both parties. This includes the career program's start and end dates.
Private colleges are expected to retain all signed contracts for compliance reviews.
Fees and refunds
Private career colleges can charge fees at different stages of the enrolment process. Students are refunded specific amounts when they leave their licensed program, depending on their withdrawal date.
Application and assessment fees
Application and assessment fees cover administrative costs involved with determining if potential students meet admission requirements. Private career colleges may collect these fees before the student signs their Alberta Student Enrolment Contract. These fees do not fall under the Private Vocational Training Regulation, and are not part of the signed contract.
If the prospective student meets admission requirements, private career colleges may collect a registration fee of up to $500 when the contract is signed. Paid registration fees must be credited to unpaid tuition when the student starts the career training program.
Payments can also be collected at this time for:
Other fees, such as student memberships or locker fees, cannot be charged until the career training program begins.
Tuition is not paid until the career training program starts, unless it is paid by one of these approved third parties:
- Alberta Advanced Education
- Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
- Community Futures Treaty 7
- Alberta Human Services
- Minister of Treasury Board and Finance
- Workers Compensation Board
Other third party funding governments/agencies can be considered, but prior government approval is required before private career colleges can accept advance payments. Contact government for more information.
Section 17 of the Private Vocational Training Regulation specifies the maximum amount of tuition that a private career college can retain when a student contract is terminated.
Regardless of the funding source, the licensed program provider cannot accept more tuition than allowed, but can accept a lesser amount. According to Section 21 of the regulation, tuition refunds must be paid:
- to the party that paid the tuition fee
- within 30 days of termination of the student contract, or the time period specified by the Director of Private Career Colleges
All private career colleges offering licensed programs are required to have a process to resolve student complaints. If students have concerns about their licensed program or instructors, they must first address them with their college.
If the student is unable to reach a resolution with their career college, they have 6 months from the last day they attended their licensed program to share their concerns in writing with the Private Career Colleges (PCC) Branch. If the concern falls within the scope of the Private Vocational Training Act or Regulation, government will follow up with the career college.
If the matter is of a general nature:
- Alberta Advanced Education’s PCC Branch will work with the career college to gather specific information/documentation.
- After reviewing the information, the PCC branch will determine an appropriate course of action for the career college to undertake, if required.
- If a resolution is required and not satisfactorily reached, then the PCC Branch may need to take corrective measures, such as an Order of the Director and/or a Stop Order.
Student specific reviews
Reviews conducted on behalf of students follow this process:
- The student provides written consent for their name and information to be shared with the institution.
- The career college is advised of the complaint and given the opportunity to respond and provide information/documentation, as requested by the PCC Branch.
- The PCC Branch conducts a preliminary review that encompasses:
- the student's concerns
- the institution's response
- the compliance matters being examined
- a list of the relevant facts and findings
- copies of all information/documentation used in the review
- additional information is also solicited from all of the parties involved
- Additional information is sought by the PCC Branch from all parties involved if required.
- Next steps are determined after the information is reviewed.
All advertising should reflect the program name as it is licensed. The Private Vocational Training Regulation:
- prohibits private career colleges from guaranteeing that students who graduate from their licensed programs will obtain employment (Section 22)
- prevents colleges from making any false or misleading statements about licensed programs to persuade students to enrol (Section 20)
Government would be pleased to discuss and/or review your proposed advertising.
If there are concerns about whether a private college or one of their representatives made a misleading statement, the Director of the Private Colleges Branch will review the statement. If the Director decides that it is misleading, the college must return any tuition paid.
Note: If a licensing application is under review, please contact government to find out when advertising/marketing of an unlicensed program can take place.