After offering unapproved programs an operating an unapproved campus, Toronto’s Goodwin College was shut down yesterday by Ontario’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.
On July 2, a ministry superintendent responsible for private career colleges issued an order to Goodwin to cease operations. The college had 15 business days to appeal the decision but decided not to do so. As a result, their doors closed for good on July 22.
The school did not receive clearance to operate its Mississauga campus. Ministry spokesman Greg Flood said that the college was advertising 31 unapproved programs and delivering 15 of those programs to students.
Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (CFS-O) chairperson Shelley Melanson said that private career colleges often target first-generation Canadians, immigrants, and international students.
They promise them an education that will make them employable, which Melanson said is simply not the case much of the time because diplomas “are not worth the paper they are printed on.”
“Many of them have been riddled with impropriety. And that’s hugely problematic, because there is no really direct accountability,” she said.
The CFS-O is calling on the provincial government to enforce a moratorium on the creation of any new private career colleges.
Gerencser, who is also the past president of the Ontario Association of Career Colleges, said that the CFS-O proposal is an unnecessary step given that private career colleges competently serve a niche market.
“If we disappeared, there are 40,000 people a year who go through private career colleges. Where would they go?” he asked, alluding to the total enrolment of all private career colleges in Ontario.
The provincial government would be forced to create new community colleges to make up for the enrolment gap, something Gerencser said would weigh heavily on the public purse.
Gerencser said private career colleges serve a different market than the public system. The median age of students in such colleges is about 29 years old and includes people who do not necessarily want to attend school with the public crowd, which is predominantly much younger.
Gerencser, the CEO of triOS College—one of the largest private career colleges in Ontario, with locations in eight cities—said that he offered to accommodate displaced students from Goodwin College. Under provincial legislation, all currently enrolled students at the now-closed school are guaranteed placement in another career college.
Anne Burns, the chief administrative officer of the National Association of Career Colleges, disagreed with Melanson’s opinion of the usefulness of private career colleges.
“I think that the ministry has in place, based on the new Act and regulations, fairly rigorous requirements for private career colleges,” she said. “The majority of private career colleges are filling a need recognized by employers who continue to hire their graduates.”
Goodwin’s owner, Zhenxiang “Gordon” Yi, was charged earlier this month with two counts of bribery. He allegedly attempted to bribe a ministry official in return for a report that Goodwin was complying with provincial regulations.
Catherine Chin, a service manager at an unidentified agency apparently affiliated with the college, said that Yi declined an interview with Maclean’s.
A woman who answered the phone at the college’s downtown office who didn’t identify herself said that the school had no plans to attempt to reopen its doors.
The province is looking to make alternate arrangements for students currently studying at Goodwin.