CALGARY -- A Calgary college student is urging others applying to post-secondary to research schools and read registration contracts thoroughly before signing up. 

Johnathan Corkum has to pay $6,650 toward his student loan after completing just three weeks of a program at CDI College that ended up being virtual learning only, not in-person. 

“I think it’s not right for me doing literally less than five per cent of the program, I have to pay that much back,” said Corkum.

The 20-year-old started CDI’s cybersecurity specialist program through its Midpark Way S.E. campus on Aug. 17 and formally withdrew on Sept. 9. 

“I withdrew because CDI wasn’t recognized by a lot of employers, especially even other schools,” said Corkum, who said he spoke to some potential employers after he registered. 

Total tuition for the 74-week program is $26,600. Corkum has to pay 25 per cent ($6,650) to CDI, which was outlined in the contract he signed.

“I think it should be more lenient. There’s no in-class study, everything is done at home,” said Charlene Corkum, Johnathan’s mother.

The agreement states if the contract is terminated after the program begins, the institution is entitled to 25 per cent of the total tuition if 10 per cent or less of the program is provided.

“CDI College adheres to Alberta’s private career colleges process for tuition refunds.” said Tim Ogilvie, regional director, operations AB south, CDI College. Ogilvie directed CTV to the province’s website, which says students registered in Alberta’s private career colleges may be entitled to a refund based on how much of the program is already completed.

Those who have paid all of the tuition for the program and completed:

  • Less than 10 per cent of the program, the refund is at minimum 75 per cent of your tuition
  • More than 10 per cent but less than 50 per cent of the program, the refund is at minimum 40 per cent of tuition
  • More than 50 per cent of the program, the college is not required to provide a refund

Read the fine print

Corkum says he did read CDI’s contract before he signed but admits he should have researched the program thoroughly and compared it to other schools before he registered. He’s urging other students to do their homework.

“They should read the fine print and do a lot of research on the university or college,” he said. 

Charlene Corkum said she will be more involved in the next application process as well.

“Even though they're young adults, sometimes it's the knowledge of the parent to help them through," she said.

"Sometimes we have to help them read it over and understand exactly what they're getting into.”

Other institutions

Tuition refund policies after programs begin vary by institution. 

Bow Valley College

“Learners have until the add/drop deadline to drop their courses without having to pay tuition (about two weeks into the term),” said Phil Ollenberg, assistant registrar at Bow Valley College. This allows learners to “test the water” and change their mind without tuition penalty.

“If a learner has paid their tuition and notifies us of their withdrawal on or prior to the add/drop deadline, we process a refund of their full tuition/fees, except their non-refundable confirmation deposit, within two weeks."

Bow Valley College does not require students to sign a contract.

Ollenberg says the school has been flexible during COVID-19.

“All newly-admitted students for the Fall 2020 term were given the option to defer or withdraw their admission with a refund if they didn't like the online learning option. And we were very candid in advance with students that their courses were going to be online."


“If you cancel on the first day of classes and before the end of the add/drop period for the applicable semester fall, winter, spring or summer you will receive a 50 per cent tuition refund, excluding the ancillary fees and non-refundable tuition deposit,” said Susan Mainella, director of communications and external relations at SAIT.

The timeline to add or drop a course is based on the number of weeks for a program. The deadline for a program 13 weeks or longer is the second Friday from the program term start date.

“If you withdraw after the add/drop period, you will not receive a refund unless there are extenuating circumstances, agreed on by the Registrar or designate,” said Mainella.

Leniency during COVID

“Advanced Education eased policies in the spring to counter the impacts of COVID- 19 on student learning,” said Eliza Snider, press secretary for advanced education. 

Following the issuance of CMOH Order 01-2020, private career colleges were advised that:

  • No student could be expelled due to COVID-19 related absences;
  • Private career colleges could shift instruction to an online format without having to submit changes to Advanced Education;
  • No student could be required to transition to online delivery;
  • If a private career college was unable to offer, or the student did not accept an alternative method of delivery, the student’s training was to be postponed until such time as CMOH Order 01-2020 was rescinded;
  • The colleges should work with students to find alternative arrangements for practicums should previous arrangements be cancelled, and;
  • If training did not begin before CMOH 01-2020 and the student chose not to continue with, or the private career college refused to deliver the program in accordance with the student contract and the student paid all or part of her/his tuition, then she/he was entitled to a refund for the entirety of the tuition paid.