Benefits of For-Profit Schools
If you’re considering enrolling in college, you might be a bit leery of for-profit schools—and you’d be right to be concerned. Federal-level attention has focused on the industry lately, revealing plenty of worrisome issues. For example, students at for-profit colleges are approximately twice as likely to default on their student loans. For-profit colleges take up almost a quarter of all federal student aid, and an astonishingly low number—9%--of students at for-profit colleges graduate within six years.
In addition, for-profit colleges have been shown to adopt high-pressure tactics to get students to sign up, regardless of preparation, so the college can get the federal tuition money—often leaving unprepared students with a mountain of debt, no degree, and no job. Clearly, the for-profit industry has a lot to answer for.
But nonprofit colleges aren’t perfect, either. Many nonprofit colleges have astronomical tuition bills. Some with high-profile sports teams recruit heavily—and sometimes unethically—for athletic students who are likely to improve the college team’s national
standing and earnings, prioritizing athletic ability over scholarship in
college grant distribution. And at some high-profile colleges,
professors are hired based on research interests and publishing records, not
teaching ability—good for the school, not always so good for the students.
Defenders of for-profit education say that the industry plays an important role in making education accessible to low-income students who can’t afford traditional college—and can’t take time off to earn a bachelor’s degree. Here are a few of the benefits for-profit colleges bring to higher education.
There’s no question that the for-profit college industry is far from perfect. But the baby shouldn’t be thrown out with the bathwater.
For-profit colleges know that their largest student base consists of people who work full-time jobs. And most colleges adjust to that, with class times at night and on weekends as well as fully-flexible online classes. That can make a huge difference to students struggling to fit study time around one or more jobs or parents caring full-time for young children.
Most for-profits depend on online education
Traditional colleges have been getting into online education—some traditional campuses even offer 100% online degrees. But the traditional academic environment is fairly resistant to change, and a large percentage of colleges still don’t offer 100% online degrees. But in the for-profit world, online education is practically a given. If anything, the reverse is true—it can be difficult to find a for-profit school with a brick-and-mortar campus presence, but almost all for-profit schools offer online classes. These classes make education much more accessible to people who have challenging schedules and those who can’t afford to physically move to campus to study.
Professors are paid to teach, not conduct research
In many traditional colleges—particularly the more prestigious ones—professors are hired mainly on their research qualifications and interests, not their teaching abilities. Despite the quality associated with the names of some of these schools, this practice can bring down the quality of teaching students receive. In for-profit schools, the focus is on teaching.
Some community colleges are overcrowded
The other college institution that traditionally serves low-income students and working adults is community colleges. These have traditionally low tuition as well as schedules that tend to be more accommodating to students who work full-time—but many community colleges are extremely overcrowded. Facing shortfalls because of state and local budget problems, these colleges often turn students away purely because of space reasons—or put students on waiting lists that can last years.
For-profit schools, however, often depend more strongly on online education—where space isn’t an issue. No matter how many students sign up, for-profit colleges have room. And because they don’t depend on direct government funding allocation, the government’s budget woes don’t affect them.
There’s no question that the for-profit college industry is far from perfect. But the baby shouldn’t be thrown out with the bathwater. Despite its flaws, the industry does play an important role in helping low-income and working students get degrees. If it can boost graduation rates, bring tuition down and do more to assure its students are prepared, the industry may be able to serve its students better—and play a more positive role in higher education.
New York Times: Why We Need For-Profit Schools
The Chronicle of Higher Education: 8 For-Profit Colleges Collect More than $1 billion in Veterans’ Education Benefits
Huffington Post: Community Colleges Overcrowding
Huffington Post: New Data Shows Students at For-Profits Twice as Likely to Default on Loans
Consumerist.com: If For-Profit Colleges Want Student Aid, They Have to Prove Graduates Can Get Jobs
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