Hard Lessons- Newcomers and Ontario Private Colleges

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October 30, 2013 by ceris

private college report image 3Canadian newcomers often rely on private colleges in Ontario to get Canadian educational credentials. A new report produced by the Toronto South Local Immigration Partnership shows why provincial standards are vital to ensure the quality of education provided in private colleges.

This report, released in September 2013, focuses on the experiences of newcomers with private colleges in Ontario. The study arose as a direct result of concerns expressed by agency staff within the Toronto South region regarding what they were hearing from their newcomer clients about private colleges.  Feedback included aggressive recruitment methods, dubious assessments and admissions processes, and poor employment outcomes that raised questions about the quality of the instruction and the veracity of the recruitment claims.

This qualitative study relies on the insights of  front-line staff of agencies that serve newcomers, and offers their impressions of the newcomer encounter with private colleges: the newcomer’s motivation for seeking out private colleges, recruitment and admissions practices, financial issues, the educational and training process and eventual outcomes. In order to provide some context, this report also reviews the limited literature that exists relating to private colleges. The objectives of the study are to draw attention to what appears to be a continuing pattern of problematic practices, to make policy recommendations and to reinforce previous recommendations, and to provide  tools for newcomers and settlement staff by providing background information about private colleges and some quick tip sheets.

On the basis of 24 in-depth interviews with settlement agency staff and other key informants, a number of common themes emerged:

  • private college report imageNewcomers feel under great pressure to find a job when they arrive to Canada, but often find they need a Canadian credential or upgrade; private colleges are attractive to them because they often have shorter courses and more options when it comes to classroom schedules;
  • Among some private colleges, newcomers do not appear to be held to the same stringent requirements for English proficiency as is typically the case for post-secondary institutions, resulting in more admissions of newcomer students whose weaker language skills may lead to poorer learning outcomes;
  • In a number of cases, some private colleges appeared to use high-pressure sales techniques in their recruitment process and were not upfront about program fees and the nature of OSAP assistance;
  • A number of key informants complained that standards of instruction, curriculum and facilities were poor in many instances among private colleges and that placement or practicum opportunities appeared either non-existent or inadequate;
  • The experience of our key informants has been that newcomers graduating from private colleges have poorer employment outcomes than those graduating from community colleges.

The report concludes with a number of recommendations:

private college report image 2

  • Given the limited information available about private colleges, that more studies be commissioned to shed light on this sector;
  • That more effort be invested in enforcing the laws and regulations currently in place, in particular in relation to the quality of education provided in private colleges;
  • That private colleges be required to produce the same key performance indicators as community colleges, such as graduation rates, graduate employment, graduate satisfaction and employer satisfaction;
  • That a greater effort be made to assist the broader public to be an informed consumer of educational services.

The full report is available here. A tool kit has been developed as a result of this study and can be found on the Toronto LIP website here.

About the blog author:

sevgulSevgul Topkara-Sarsu is the Supervisor of Adult Settlement Services at WoodGreen Community Services. She has extensive experience in research, program development and evaluation as well as working directly with immigrants. The primary focus of her current work has been to support core operations for the Immigrant Services unit, which included program evaluation, preparation of reports, research analysis, facilitation of focus groups, knowledge management, project coordination and assistance with staff supervision. Previously, she supported the Toronto East Local Immigration Partnership (LIP) project as a Research and Evaluation Coordinator for two years.

Sevgul has a Ph.D. in Political Studies from Queen’s University where she taught contemporary political theory. She can be reached at stopkara@woodgreen.org.

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