Partnerships Are Out Of The Mothballs

There will be more photos like this in the future after all ... Students will still be earning St. Clair diplomas from a Toronto-based "satellite" campus.

President Patti France’s “Christmas present” to the college’s Board of Govenors (BofG) … The revelation that the college will not, during the next couple of years, be losing $7 million-plus.

Or, depending upon how you look at the situation, maybe that was the Conservative provincial government’s gift to the college.

Let’s back-track …

A half-dozen years ago, St. Clair entered into a partnership with a private college in Toronto called the Ace Acumen Academy.

That is a school that provides English As Second Language training and secondary school education to international students.

St. Clair – like half-a-dozen other, non-Toronto-area public colleges which also partnered with private schools in the GTA – developed a “satellite campus” arrangement with Ace Acumen, enabling its grads to transition into postsecondary educations by taking college courses.

Within a year or two of the partnership’s launch, St. Clair was offering a half-dozen programs at Ace Acumen: Business, Human Resources Management, Computer Systems Technician-Networking, Social Service Worker-Gerontology, International Business Management, and Freight Forwarding. The programs’ curricula was authored by St. Clair; the Toronto-based faculty were overseen by St. Clair; and, upon the successful conclusion of their studies, the Acumen-based students received St. Clair diplomas and certificates.

Like the other public colleges providing such “add-on” servicing to the private schools, it appeared to be a “win/win/win” situation for all of the concerned parties: the students received postsecondary educations in a familiar and convenient setting; the private school was able to bolster its marketing with this additional service; and the public college was able to generate some additional revenue for itself in the form of the tuitions charged at the satellite campuses.

In 2017, however, this entire situation began to unravel.

It is suspected that some of the Toronto-based public colleges began to gripe about the fact that their non-GTA colleagues – such as St. Clair – were infringing upon “their turf” by establishing the satellite campuses.

Whatever the case, during the latter stages of the Liberal provincial government, the then-Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (now the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities) launched a review of the public/private college partnerships.

In August of 2017, the ministry announced that public/private college partnerships would be “wound down” (a gradual reduction of new enrolment), and eventually cease to exist.

About the only rationale cited by the ministry for its decision was that the satellite campuses were not providing students with “the full college experience, nor fully integrating international students into their new communities.”

For a full description of the ministry’s thinking when it imposed its “moratorium”, see

For St. Clair, the elimination of its Ace Acumen partnership meant that it would be losing the approximately 1,200 to 1,500 students enrolled there annually – and the associated tuition revenue.

In the current (2018-19) budget-year, the college had anticipated revenues from Ace Acumen of approximately $7 million. The gradual phasing out of new enrolment was expected to lead to a decline in that revenue to approximately $4 million next year, dipping to zilch a year or two after that when the Liberal-ordered elimination of public/private partnerships took effect fully.

One over-riding characteristic has been evident following this June’s election of the Premier Doug Ford-led Conservative government … If the previous Liberal government implemented a policy, the Tories seem very likely to reverse it.

And this is what has happened in this instance.

France told the BofG during its December 4th meeting that she had just received firm confirmation of previously rumoured indications that the ministry would be scrapping the moratorium, and allowing public/private college partnerships – including St. Clair’s with Ace Acumen – to continue.

There may, for a time, still be some controls over the levels of new enrolment as the ministry studies how partnerships are formed, if other schools should be involved, and how quality is gauged and maintained in such satellite settings. But the very good news, France emphasized, is that the outright eradication of such public/private marriages will not be occurring.

Part of the Conservatives’ thinking is, no doubt, financially based. If colleges – especially small- and medium-sized ones such as St. Clair – can generate their own new revenue sources by innovative methods such as these partnerships, that reduces the “general” funding that the province would (otherwise) have to provide to the schools.

See, also, the BofG story about newly approved programs:

See, also, the BofG story about the college's projected year-end budget surplus: