Community Colleges versus Private Colleges in Canada

Canada is famous for its high-quality educational system. Hundreds of thousands of international students study in Canadian institutions every year. Many of these students start their education at the post-secondary (tertiary) level. They complete their high school or secondary diploma in their home country and then they continue their post-secondary training in Canada in a university or a college.  Canadian colleges offer the following opportunities to international students.

  • Post-secondary diplomas (also known as associate degrees)
  • Post-secondary certificates
  • Post-graduate diplomas or certificates (i.e. you need to complete a higher education program first and then attend these programs)
  • Short-term training and crash courses
  • Skills trades training (e.g. welding, plumbing, etc.)
  • Prep courses for professional licences exams
  • Bachelor’s degree programs (under the supervision or with the collaboration of a university)
  • English as a Second Language (ESL) training
  • French language training
  • ….

What is a Community College?

Image is taken from Wikipedia

Canada is divided into ten provinces and three territories, namely British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Nunavut. The Canadian provinces financially support some of the colleges in their province. These publicly-funded colleges are called community colleges. They may receive funds from the federal government of Canada or other sources as well. Due to the funds they receive, the community colleges may easily reduce their tuition fees.

What is a Private College?

Private colleges do not receive funds from the federal or provincial governments. They rely on tuition fees to run their business. Most provinces use rigorous procedures to accredit these colleges. Private colleges are usually smaller than community colleges and more expensive for local students. Private colleges in the province of Ontario are called Private Career Colleges (PCC) as they are focused on skills development for specific career opportunities.

Pros and Cons of Studying in Private versus Community Colleges

The following list compares community and private colleges from different angles for international students.

  • Tuition Fee: Community colleges are usually cheaper options comparing to private colleges. However, when it comes to international students the tuition fee is not much difference between them. In some cases, you may even find a private college that is cheaper than a community college.
  • Class sizes: The number of students in private colleges is usually a lot less than community colleges. Of course, exceptions apply.
  • Length of education: Many private colleges strive to offer similar programs to community colleges in shorter periods of time without compromising the quality of education. This approach saves you time and also could compensate for higher tuition fees to some extent. The shorter education time means you spend a lot less on food, accommodation, and transportation. You also achieve your educational goal faster.
  • Admission: The only source of income for private colleges is their students. They are always thirsty for new students and consequently more flexible towards giving them admission.
  • Designation by the Immigration Authorities: All community colleges are designated by the immigration authorities. As an international student, you may only register to Designated Learning Institutions (DLI) to be able to secure a Study Permit. Some private colleges may not be designated. To make sure if a college is designated by the immigration authorities or not visit the IRCC website. For local students, the designation by IRCC does not matter.
  • Working while studying in Canada: If you hold a valid study permit you may work up to 20 hours per week while studying in Canada. You may even work full-time during normal breaks such as winter and spring breaks. This opportunity is available to both community and private colleges.
  • Educational credential assessment (ECA): As an international student you might want to eventually immigrate to Canada and become a Permanent Resident of Canada. Some methods of immigration (e.g. the Express Entry) expect you evaluate your educational credentials through an approved organization, also known as ECA. If you complete your education in Canada you do not need to go through the ECA process. This feature is the same for both private and community colleges.
  • Post-graduate Work Permit: If you are an international student and graduate from a community college you may apply for a special work permit (PGWP) to stay in Canada and work after graduation. This option is rarely available to private colleges. Visit the IRCC website to make sure your prospect college qualifies for a PGWP after completion of your studies.

If you wish to visit or move to Canada or if you have encountered any issues with the immigration authorities, you may fill out our free assessment form or book a consultation session to assess your potential opportunities or offer you immigration, visa, or citizenship advice.

Al Parsai, MA, DTM, RCIC
Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
Ashton College Instructor – Immigration Consulting
Author – 88 Tips on Immigration to Canada


This article provides information of a general nature only. It may no longer be current. It does not give legal advice nor should you rely on it as legal advice. If you have specific legal questions, you should consult a lawyer. If you are looking for immigration advice, book an appointment. All the characters in the articles are fictional, unless otherwise clearly stated. Any resemblance in names, dates, and places (whether individuals, organizations, regions, or countries) is coincidental.

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Al Parsai

This article has been expertly crafted by Al Parsai, a distinguished Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) hailing from vibrant Toronto, Canada. Al's academic achievements include an esteemed role as an adjunct professor at prestigious Queen's University Law School and Ashton College, as well as a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University. A respected member of CICC and CAPIC organizations, Al's insights are further enriched by his experience as the dynamic CEO of Parsai Immigration Services. Guiding thousands of applicants from over 55 countries through the immigration process since 2011, Al's articles offer a wealth of invaluable knowledge for readers.