An Ontario regulator has shut down U.S.-based Everest College, a chain of 14 private career schools.

On Thursday, the superintendent of private career colleges, the independent regulator that governs schools like Everest and others in the province, said it has suspended the chain's licence to operate in Ontario as a private college, effective immediately.

The office "can propose to revoke a private career college's registration if [the superintendent] no longer satisfied that it can be expected to be financially responsible in its operation as a private career college, considering its current financial position," the regulator said in a statement.

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No other reason for the shutdown was given.

Corinthian Colleges, which owns Everest College in Canada, said in an email to CBC News that it was surprised by the move, because "we have been working with the ministry for the past several weeks and months to determine our best path forward."

Classes terminated

It added: "This means that all instruction at Everest College of Canada campuses is terminated effective today."

The National Association Of Career Colleges, an Ottawa-based non-profit association that represents 500 career colleges and technical schools across Canada, said it hopes to work with the province to limit the damage to the more than 2,400 students who attend Everest Colleges across the province.

“This is an unfortunate situation for students and employees," NACC's chief executive Serge Buy said. "We are confident that plans prepared by the Ontario government and supported by our sector will mitigate any impact on students."

It's not immediately clear what the news means for any of Everest's thousands of students across the province. Most have accrued credits towards a diploma or certificate that may no longer exist, spending tens of thousands of dollars. 

A provincial fund, known as the Training Completion Assurance Fund, helps provide eligible students with funding towards training completion, or full or partial refunds when this sort of thing happens. But the fund is capped at $3 million.

For more information on the program, students affected by Everest's shutdown should call (416) 314-0500 or toll free 1-866-330-3395, the province says.

Students reaction

Thursday's news was a blow to students like Chelsea Lloyd, who's in the second year of the massage therapy program in Ottawa.

"We have four months left in a two-year program," she told CBC News in an interview. "Six months ago, we were advised by our campus president that all is well and not to worry. Six months ago, we started our second year and could have transferred schools with little to no ill effects​."

Lloyd says she isn't impressed with the way the shutdown has been handled.

"We are all faced with spending more time and money while scrambling to rectify our own personal situations," she said.

Others had nothing but good things to say about the school, both while they were students there and after. Eduarda Cabral graduated from the Kitchener location last September with a diploma to be a personal support worker.

"My experience at Everest College, it was an absolute wonderful experience," she told CBC News. "I decided to change my career after working in finance for over 20 years and I thought I’m going to get into healthcare and I’m so glad I made the decision to coming to Everest College because it made a world of difference to my life."

Cabral said she stopped in to her old school on Thursday morning after the news broke and was greeted by a lot of teary-eyed faces.

Everest offers programs such as law enforcement, dental assistants, child care, massage therapy and esthetics at the following 14 locations across the province: 

  • Sudbury.
  • Ottawa (two locations).
  • Hamilton (two locations).
  • Windsor.
  • Kitchener.
  • Barrie.
  • Newmarket.
  • Mississauga.
  • Brampton.
  • Toronto (three locations).

The school is owned by U.S.-based Corinthian Colleges Inc., which was a Nasdaq-listed public company until it was delisted this month for failing to file financial information with regulators in a timely manner.

That came after allegations of falsified job placement and grade data last year led Corinthian to agree to shut down and sell numerous locations as part of a deal with U.S. lawmakers.