Ministry of Advanced Education

Frequently Asked Questions

General
Students
Educators and Institutions
English as a second language (ESL)

General

What is the Private Career Training Institutions Agency?

In February 2002 after a Core Services Review, government decided to replace the Private Post-secondary Education Commission (PPSEC), which regulated private post-secondary institutions in British Columbia. PPSEC has been replaced by the Private Career Training Institutions Agency (PCTIA). The PCTIA is a self-regulating, cost-recovery agency governed by a board of industry representatives.

The PCTIA is responsible for the registration and accreditation of private career training institutions that operate in British Columbia. The PCTIA provides consumer protection for students of registered private post-secondary institutions, and sets standards of quality that must be met by accredited institutions.

Are all private institutions required to register with the PCTIA?

Only institutions offering career-related training programs with at least 40 hours of instruction and $1,000 in tuition are required to register with the PCTIA. Private institutions that are not required to register may register voluntarily.

Career-related training programs are defined as those that lead to employment in specific occupations. You can find out more about occupation definitions and job descriptions on Human Resources Development Canada's National Occupational Classification website.

Are private language schools regulated by the PCTIA?

If a private language school also offers career-training programs then it will be regulated by the PCTIA. If only non career-training programs, such as English as a Second Language (ESL), are offered then the institution is not required to register with the PCTIA.

This brings British Columbia in line with all other provinces, as well as several international jurisdictions that do not regulate private ESL institutions. However, the new Private Career Training Institutions Act provides flexibility, as institutions that are not required to register with the PCTIA can register voluntarily.

Are theological schools regulated by the PCTIA?

Private institutions offering only training that is solely religious in nature are not required to register with the PCTIA. However, institutions offering both theological and career training are required to register. This brings British Columbia in line with other Canadian jurisdictions that do not regulate private theological institutions.

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Does the PCTIA fulfill all the functions provided by PPSEC?

PPSEC was responsible for regulating all private post-secondary institutions offering training or instruction to persons 17 years of age or older in British Columbia. The PCTIA plays a similar role in that it will be responsible for registration and accreditation of private institutions, and for providing consumer protection to students of those institutions.

However, the PCTIA regulates only those institutions providing career-related training programs, and institutions that choose to voluntarily register with the PCTIA.

What is the difference between a "registered" institution and an "accredited" institution?

Registered institutions are those that are either required, or have voluntarily chosen, to register with the PCTIA. Registered institutions participate in the Student Training Completion Fund, which provides consumer protection to students in the event of school closure.

Accreditation is voluntary and means that an institution has met standards of quality set by the PCTIA. Only an accredited institution can be designated for StudentAid BC funding , which allows its students to apply for student loans. To become accredited an institution must demonstrate educational competence and integrity based on requirements set out by the PCTIA.

How will the PCTIA provide consumer protection for students?

The PCTIA has set up a Student Training Completion Fund that will help students who are unable to complete programs because their institution has closed. Through the fund students will have the option of finishing their program at another institution or having the unearned portion of their tuition refunded.

Students can only benefit from the fund if their institution is registered with the PCTIA. All institutions registered with the PCTIA are required to participate and contribute to the fund. Students attending institutions not registered with the PCTIA do not have access to the fund.

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Students

What protection is in place for students at registered private institutions?

The Student Training Completion Fund helps students who are unable to complete their courses or programs because of institution closure. The fund ensures students can either complete their studies at another institution or have the unearned portion of their tuition refunded. Private institutions must be registered with the PCTIA to have their students benefit from the fund.

What protection is in place for students at accredited private institutions?

Accredited institutions have undergone a review to ensure they meet standards of quality developed by the PCTIA. An institution must first be registered to become accredited. The Student Training Completion Fund also protects students of accredited institutions.

What if an institution is not PCTIA registered or accredited?

Students of an institution that is not registered or accredited with the PCTIA can use traditional means of consumer protection, such as Small Claims Court or the Better Business Bureau, if the institution closes before students complete their courses or programs, or is not providing the services described in the contract.

How can I find out if the institution I attend is registered and/or accredited with the PCTIA?

A list of registered and accredited private institutions can be obtained from the Private Career Training Institution Agency.

Finding out whether an institution is accredited is very important if you need student loans to finance your education. Only accredited private institutions can be designated for the student loan funding through StudentAid BC, so if you attend a private career-training institution that is not accredited, you can't apply for a student loan.

How are the standards of private institutions assessed?

A voluntary accreditation process is available for institutions that are registered with the PCTIA. The PCTIA awards accreditation when an institution has demonstrated it meets standards for educational and operational quality.

What is the Student Training Completion Fund?

The Student Training Completion Fund provides help to students who cannot complete training programs because their institution has closed. The fund gives students the option to finish their program at another institution or receive a tuition refund. Institutions registered with the PCTIA must provide a startup contribution to the fund, and will also make ongoing contributions based on a percentage of tuition fees it collects.

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Can I get a tuition refund if my school closes?

If you are attending a registered institution and the institution closes, you may make a claim against the Student Training Completion Fund for a tuition refund. Or, instead of a refund, you may complete your program at another institution. If you are not attending a registered institution, you cannot make a claim against the Student Training Completion Fund.

Where can I get a list of registered and accredited institutions?

The PCTIA maintains a list of all institutions that are registered and accredited. This can be obtained through contacting the PCTIA, or viewing their website.

If an institution is included in the list does it mean it is a good institution?

The list includes all registered institutions and indicates whether an institution is accredited. However, being a registered institution does not mean the PCTIA has endorsed it or guarantees the quality of education. Registration primarily means that students of that institution are protected under the Student Training Completion Fund. Institutions accredited by the PCTIA have met set standards for educational and operational quality.

Am I eligible for a student loan if I attend a private institution?

Students enrolled in programs at institutions designated under StudentAid BC are eligible to apply for a student loan. Private post-secondary institutions must be accredited by the PCTIA to become designated. If an institution is not designated you are not eligible to apply for student financial assistance.

Who can help me choose the right institution?

Students are responsibility for finding an institution that offers the programs or courses that meet their educational needs. Students should base their decisions and choices on well-researched information. To learn about how to become a more informed student, please visit the Being an Informed Student website, or download the Prospective Student: Questions to Ask guide.

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Educators and Institutions

How do I get approval to start a private training school in British Columbia?

All private training institutions that offer career-training programs of more than 40 hours of instruction and tuition of at least $1,000 must register with the Private Career Training Institutions Agency (PCTIA). For information about the registration process, please contact the PCTIA.

Can my school be any size?

Yes. There are no requirements regarding how many students attend an institution. Regardless of size, institutions that offer any career-training programs that cost at least $1,000 in tuition and are at least 40 hours in duration must register with the PCTIA.

Are there any fees required to have my school registered or accredited?

Yes. There are fees for both registration and accreditation. In addition, when institutions register with the PCTIA they must make a one-time contribution to the Student Training Completion Fund and continue to make ongoing contributions based on a percentage of tuition fees collected. In addition, registered institutions make ongoing contributions based on a percentage of tuition collected. Please contact the PCTIA directly for information about fees and contributions to the fund.

My institution was formerly registered with PPSEC - what is my status with the PCTIA?

All institutions registered with PPSEC at the time the Private Career Training Institutions Act came into force (November 22, 2004) continue to be registered with the PCTIA until their registration certificates expire. At that time, institutions will need to seek registration with the PCTIA.

Those institutions that are excluded from the scope of the registration requirement - such as institutions providing only language training - have the option to continue registration with PCTIA until their registration certificates expire, or to discontinue registration immediately. Institutions that discontinue registration will have their security released at that time.

What if my institution offers both career training and non-career-training programs? Am I required to register with the PCTIA?

Yes. If your institution is providing career-related programming* of atleast 40 hours in duration and costs at least $1,000 in tuition, your institution must register with the PCTIA.

* Career-related training programs are defined as those that lead directly to specific occupations listed in the National Occupational Classification, with the exception of theological occupations. You can find out more about occupation definitions and job descriptions on Human Resources Development Canada's National Occupational Classification website.

What if my institution offers both career-training programs and degree programs?

Institutions that offer both career-training programs and degree programs will need to register with the PCTIA. Institutions conferring degrees, offering or advertising an educational program that leads to a degree, or using the word "university" in British Columbia must obtain ministerial consent to do so under the Degree Authorization Act. For more information on degree granting, please consult the Degree Granting Authorization website.

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English as a Second Language (ESL)

Why is British Columbia no longer regulating private ESL schools?

No other province in Canada regulates private institutions that offer only ESL training. The decision to deregulate brings British Columbia in line with the rest of the country as well as other places.

What protection is in place for ESL students attending private schools?

This depends on whether the private institution is registered with the PCTIA. All students attending registered institutions have their tuition protected by the Student Training Completion Fund. The fund will help students unable to complete programs because their institution has closed. The fund gives students the option of completing their studies at another institution or receiving a tuition refund.

Institutions offering only language training programs - such as ESL - will not be required to register with the PCTIA, but they can register voluntarily.

Institutions offering both language training and career training are required to register, and all students at registered institutions have their tuition protected by the fund. Students attending institutions that are not registered with the PCTIA can use traditional means of consumer protection such as Small Claims Court.

What happens to me if the school I am attending closes?

If the school was registered, the PCTIA will make every effort to place students with other institutions so that they can complete their programs. Where this is not possible, students at registered institutions may make a claim against the Student Training Completion Fund in order to receive a tuition refund.

Students enrolled in language training programs at private institutions that are not registered with the PCTIA may access traditional means of consumer protection, such as Small Claims Court or the Better Business Bureau.

How can I make sure I am choosing a good school?

Students are encouraged to contact the PCTIA to find out whether the school is registered. Registration ensures that the Student Training Completion Fund will compensate students unable to complete training programs because their institution has closed. The PCTIA can also advise students whether the school is accredited. Accredited schools have undergone a review and have met specific standards of quality established by the PCTIA.

What protection do I have if my school is not registered with PCTIA?

Students can use traditional means of consumer protection such as Small Claims Court or the Better Business Bureau.