Student sues CDI College for false advertising

Kathy Tomlinson, CTV News 

Updated: Thu. Jun. 8 2006 10:07 PM ET 

Ontario resident Aaron Laforest was tired of dead end jobs. When he saw the career training advertised by CDI College in Sudbury, he thought it sounded perfect. He enrolled in a 49-week program, to become a Network and Internet Security Specialist. It was, he claims, a waste of time.

"You sit there and read," Laforest told CTV. "This was pretty much a correspondence program that was overpriced -- where you could have easily sat at home and done the same job on your own."

Laforest received high marks. However, he quit the program before it was completed. He's now suing CDI for $10,000, alleging "false advertising and misrepresentation." Laforest claims, in his lawsuit, "There has been no teaching received throughout this program."

Along with many other CDI students, Laforest's tuition was paid by Canadian taxpayers. His program cost more than $10,000 in federal training money, provided by Human Resources and Skill Development Canada.

"It's just mass marketing," said Laforest. "It's taking a ride on the taxpayer's back."

About 8,000 students are enrolled in CDI's privately-operated career training programs, in 34 campuses across Canada. Some two dozen disgruntled CDI students have written to CTV, with complaints similar to Laforest's. The NDP has also heard stories.

"It seems to be a problem across Canada, from what we are hearing," said Denise Savoie, federal Education Critic for the NDP. "They don't appear to be isolated cases."

CDI College is owned by a U.S. corporation called "Corinthian Colleges" - and it is also being sued by some students in the U.S. It's being investigated by the State of Florida, as well, over its advertising and marketing practices. There has been no conclusion announced in that probe yet and Corinthian Colleges maintains that they have complied with all regulatory standards.

The company denies the claims in the Canadian lawsuit and alleges in its defence that Aaron Laforest is "the author of his own misfortune." And that "the Plaintiff was absent on numerous occasions from the classes that he agreed to attend." CDI refused our request for an on camera interview, but sent CTV a statement instead, which said, in part:

"In an independent satisfaction survey conducted in March, 2006, 91% of CDI students were satisfied with their education and 94% were satisfied with their instructor. Thus far, 87% of 2005 graduates have obtained jobs in their chosen field." The statement also pointed out, "Ultimately, the success of each student depends on his or her willingness to work hard and complete the prescribed course of study."

The NDP is still concerned, though, by what it calls a lack of proper monitoring of private colleges like CDI - especially given that taxpayers are footing the bill for many of the students' courses.

"Canada, at the moment, is suffering from a huge skill shortage," Savoie pointed out. "We just can't afford to waste a student's time."

Savoie points to government figures which show three times as many students default on students loans when they attend private colleges -- in contrast to public institutions like universities. The NDP plans to propose legislation which would set federal standards for private colleges like CDI - instead of leaving monitoring up to the provinces.

"Unless there's a lens focused on this problem the breadth of it won't be exposed," Savoie told CTV.

Laforest and the other unhappy CDI students who wrote to CTV just want to get their word out - that private colleges may not always deliver as advertised.

"There should be an investigation done on the school," said Laforest. "What the school said was not what it turned out to be."