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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 16, Number 4, March 2004

Government deregulates private education institutions

In February 2002, the B.C. government announced its intention to replace the Private Post-Secondary Education Commission, which was established in 1992 to provide consumer protection to students and to address issues of educational competence.

In August 2002, the Ministry of Advanced Education posted a discussion paper on a proposed new private training policy framework on its web site and invited responses. The College Institute Educators’ Association (CIEA) responded, and in addition to identifying a number of areas of specific concern with the proposals, strongly recommended that the ministry develop a more comprehensive document based on the feedback and suggestions to the initial paper and engage in a more meaningful discussion of the regulatory framework. That did not happen. Instead, on May 12, 2003, the minister of advanced education tabled the Private Career Training Institutions Act (Bill 52).

Bill 52 appears to follow much of the discussion in the ministry paper, creating an arms-length agency that will have the ability to develop most aspects of the framework for regulating private institutions in B.C. Many of the significant decisions will be made by by-law of the new board or by regulation (cabinet decision). The institutions to be regulated are more narrowly defined than those in the Private Post-Secondary Education Act. Bill 52 seeks to limit the number of private institutions that must be registered in order to operate. Institutions required to register would be those that provide "training or instruction in the skill and knowledge required for employment in an occupation defined in the regulations." In addition to the designated occupations being defined in regulation, the act also provides for further limitation on what will be regulated by identifying that there will be a minimum prescribed amount of tuition and instructional time for the regulated programs. They too, will be in regulation. One of the major debating points around the new regulatory framework was whether ESL schools and programs would continue to be required to be registered. The legislation leaves the issue up in the air. Legislative debate and regulations will reveal more.

The act creates a Private Career Training Institutions Agency and identifies its governing structure and purposes. The new board, which will be made up of no more than 10 members, will initially be appointed by the minister of advanced education and will then become into a board with up to nine members elected to represent registered institutions and 1 member appointed by the minister. The first board will have the power to develop by-laws to govern the election of future board members and to govern the workings of the agency. Bill 52 establishes a Student Training Completion Fund that on first reading looks like it will function like a tuition assurance fund. This legislative requirement can be seen as a positive development, given that the original government proposal did not have a legislated requirement for a tuition-protection fund.

Issues and concerns
1. Government has chosen to adopt a self-regulated approach to the sector. The previous Private Post-Secondary Education Commission had a balance of government appointees representing the public (including a representative of the Better Business Bureau) and those from private institutions. How is the public interest better protected with less public oversight of the regulation of the private-training sector?

2. How many of the current 1,100 registered institutions will still be required to register under the new legislation?

3. What kind of public reporting will be required of the new agency? Will student outcomes, attrition, or drop-out rates and other performance information be published for easy public access?

4. Will the new agency be subject to freedom-of-information legislation, as was the previous commission?

5. The original ministry proposal suggested that ESL language programs and schools should not be required to be registered in order to operate in B.C. because they are not necessarily "career-related." When will a decision be made as to whether ESL schools will be required to be registered?

– Canadian Institute Educators’ Association

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