Accreditation and Associations: Private career colleges in Canada are not accredited the same way that university or community colleges and programs are. Private career colleges must be registered and licensed by the education ministry of their province. Each province has an Act governing private career training schools (for example Ontario's Private Career Colleges Act, B.C.'s Private Career Training Institutions Act and the Private Occupational Training Act of New Brunswick), and these Acts have guidelines for which types of schools are required to register. This registration and licensure is the first place to start when looking for quality assurance from a career college. Private career colleges have to be licensed, but they also have the option of being accredited by the same ministry. Voluntary accreditation means certain criteria have been checked/ verified independently, such as the school's truth in advertising, reasonable tuition fees, up-to-date courses, clear guidelines and requirements for admission, properly-maintained equipment, qualified industry-experienced instructors, reasonable class size, and job search guidance and services.
A private career college may also choose to become a member of a professional association. As far back as 1896 there was a national association of private career colleges known as the Business Educators Association. Today it has been replaced by the National Association of Career Colleges (NACC), which has a membership of more than 400 colleges and institutes across Canada. The NACC is a voluntary association, however, so its membership doesn't represent the total number of Canada's career colleges. There are also provincial associations committed to ensuring program quality that schools can choose to join or not, such as the Alberta Association of career Colleges (AACC) or New Brunswick Association of Career Colleges (NBACC). Career colleges may also be accredited by the Canadian Education and Training Accreditation Commission (CETAC), which, as an independent branch of the NACC, accredits private post-secondary vocational schools demonstrating educational excellence. CETAC has been responsible for institutional accreditation of private post secondary institutions in Canada since 1985. And then when you get down to the specific program you're interested in, you can also check if there are any relevant associations the school belongs to, such as the National Association of Trade and Technical Schools or the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). Licensure, accreditation and association membership are important indicators of a school's commitment to quality, so be sure to check it out to make sure you're getting the education you deserve!
Why Accreditation? The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality. Accrediting agencies, which are educational associations of regional or national scope, develop evaluation criteria and conduct peer evaluations to assess whether or not those criteria are met. Institutions and/or programs that request an agency's evaluation and that meet an agency's criteria are then "accredited" by that agency.