Resource on Private Career Colleges

Are you Considering Attending a Private Career College? We’ve written a resource with our partners at Momentum on Private Career Colleges.


Momentum provides financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and skills training programs to support people who live with financial barriers. They are a change-making organization that focuses on poverty reduction and bringing social perspectives to economic development.


Private Career Colleges can be an attractive option to students. Many offer job focused training, often on a flexible schedule or at a convenient location. Some may have more flexible admission criteria than a publicly funded institution like a university. Alberta has over 200 registered private career colleges and over 25,000 students attended a program at one in 2021. Many private career colleges market themselves primarily to new Canadians and people on lower incomes.


While these colleges can be a pathway to a better future, some programs are less credible and do not provide the training they advertise. It is important to do your research and make sure you are confident that any program you consider is legitimate and can deliver the results it promises.


Momentum has become a leader in exploring issues around private career colleges after many of their program participants identified high student loan debt and poor job prospects as particular challenges following their experiences with private career colleges over the years.


Many private career colleges offer good programming and fulfill student expectations, however there are many in Alberta that do not provide the services advertised and exploit their students. Momentum  shares reports of poor quality programming, programs that did not offer the credentials they advertised, groups of new Canadians being coerced into signing up for a program, programs that did not exist, unqualified instructors, poor job prospects post-graduation, and graduates with thousands of dollars in debt.


One of those first things you can do to check the credibility of a private career college is to research them online.

  • Check their website. Their website should be unique and not match another differently named college’s website. If it does, this is a warning sign the institution might not be credible.
  • Click the links on their website. If there are a lot of broken links or dead end pages, this is another sign the institution might not be credible.
  • Check ALIS (Government of Alberta careers guide). They offer resources on career planning and a directory of post-secondary institutions in Alberta. Be aware a listing on ALIS doesn’t guarantee the institution is credible.
  • Read the instructor bios. Instructors who have recently graduated from that same institution is a big red flag. Look for people who appear to be credible in their field, with experience working in that industry.
  • Be cautious of online reviews. Reviews are easy to fake or buy.


After researching them online, you’ll want to look into their student policies. Check to see how long you are eligible to request your money back. Some programs have a policy that says you cannot request a refund after the first day of classes. There is a Government of Alberta complaints process, but students will need to attempt to resolve any refunds through the private college first and results are not guaranteed. Policies that make it difficult to secure a refund aren’t a guarantee that an institution isn’t credible, but they are a red flag and a sign you should be certain about the program before putting any money down.


Check how well you will be able to apply the credentials you are seeking.

  • Call some prospective employers and see if they can recommend a program or institution where you can study.
  • Ask the prospective employer about the program you are considering. They may know some graduates and may be able to speak to the program’s quality.


You can also consider reaching out to previous or current students.

  • Look up people who have graduated from the institution and program on LinkedIn. Ask them about the quality of the program, if it met their expectations, and if they found work as a result of completing the program.
  • Drop by the campus and talk to some current students. Also check that the campus exists and looks legitimate.


Warning Signs: What are some things to watch out for after you have registered and started attending classes?

  • The first lesson repeats itself over and over. An excuse might be given like new students are joining and so the instructor will say they need to repeat the lesson. But this can continue on until students eventually give up and stop attending.
  • If the instructor seems ill prepared and unable to teach the class or teaches exclusively through YouTube videos. This doesn’t mean instructors can’t have a bad day, or show the occasional video in class, but a program consisting entirely of YouTube videos is not likely to be a credible one.
  • A lack of program outline (syllabus) or not following the program outline is another red flag.
  • An absence of promised job supports is another warning sign. Many private career colleges will promise to find students employment after the program wraps up. However, after enrolling, students may find they are unable to access those employment services either because they don’t exist, or they’ve been made intentionally difficult to access.


Not all private career colleges are a bad choice, some offer a good education that will help connect students with a career in their field of choice. However, it can sometimes be difficult to tell which ones are credible, and a bad choice can leave students stuck with a bill for a program that doesn’t get them a job in their field. To learn more about Private Career Colleges and the advocacy work Momentum is doing, click here.




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