B.C. government promises action on massage school that issued diploma without training
Woman who paid $5K to Richmond college later asked for a refund
Zhen Qin hadn't taken a single class in massage techniques, but on the same day she paid her $5,000 tuition to a private college in Richmond, she received her diploma in acupressure and body massage.
That revelation about the Vancouver International College of Health and Wellness is contained in a new decision from the province's Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) and has prompted a promise of action from the B.C. government.
Qin's experience has raised "serious concerns" for the Private Training Institutions Branch (PTIB), according to an email from a spokesperson for the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training.
"Students deserve to receive quality education and training regardless of which institution they study at in B.C.," the emails reads.
Staff at the PTIB "are now reviewing the decision and will take the appropriate action."
The college's website markets it as "The Affordable & Quality Health & Wellness Training Institute for Everyone!"
Qin says that before she enrolled in the massage program, she was told she would be able to write insurance receipts for her clients, according to the tribunal's decision.
The school's president, Chun Wang, advertised online that it was "registered in Ministry of Education of British Columbia."
Instead, as Qin would later learn, her services would not be reimbursable through extended health insurance and the college wasn't certified by the PTIB. She alleges she received no training or work experience from the school.
A few months after Qin paid her tuition, in cash, on March 22, 2017, the program received PTIB approval. The school itself holds an interim designation with the PTIB which means it has applied for official certification with the province but has not met all the requirements.
'Incumbent upon the student' to research schools
In its decision this week, the tribunal rejected Qin's small claims suit seeking a refund of her tuition. As tribunal member Micah Carmody explained, Qin should have known better than to trust this particular college, pointing to a B.C. provincial court judgment from 2004.
"The court stated that it is incumbent upon the student before entering an institution to make due inquiry about the merits, reputation, and value of its certificates…. In context, I find that it was not reasonable for the applicant to rely on Mr. Wang's statements before inquiring with the relevant authorities," Carmody wrote.
Wang didn't deny issuing a diploma to Qin on the same day she paid her tuition, without giving her any training. But he alleged she wasn't worried about providing insurance receipts. Instead he claimed she was mainly concerned with qualifying for a mortgage on a new condo and needed proof she could earn additional income.
Wang said the school had never issued a diploma before someone had taken classes, but he agreed to do it for Qin "after considering her situation," according to the decision.
'Red flags' were obvious
Carmody's decision lays out "several red flags" Qin should have noticed about the college before she paid her tuition.
"First, there was the respondent's offer of the diplomas in exchange for a cash payment with no requirement that the applicant take any training," Carmody said, pointing out there was no evidence she took issue with the arrangement.
She also failed to check with the PTIB which maintains an online directory of certified colleges
And when Qin asked about paying her tuition in instalments, Wang offered her a $1,000 discount — with an extra diploma tossed in for free — "further calling into question the legitimacy of the institution," Carmody wrote.
Reached by phone on Friday, Wang told CBC he had no further comment on the matter. He told the tribunal Qin is welcome to take classes at his school any time.
On the school's website, Wang says he was a surgeon in China and is currently studying to become a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine.