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Resource CenterCollege Search & SelectionCollege ChoicesFor-Profit Vs. Not-for-Profit Colleges

 For-Profit Vs. Non-Profit Colleges

As one would expect, higher education has evolved significantly over the years.  From single-sex institutions deciding to go co-ed to sky-rocketing costs, the higher ed market has certainly changed.  In particular, one realm that has seen a lot of growth is the recent rise of the for-profit college.  From television commercials to magazine inserts, their advertisements have become ubiquitous.  But what exactly is a for-profit college?  And how do you decide if you should go that route or attend a non-profit college?

To begin with, non-profits are the traditional schools you likely picture when you think of college–liberal arts colleges, community colleges, state universities, etc.  These schools receive funding from a variety of sources such as the government, tuition fees and donations.  Perhaps more importantly, the money that these schools earn often goes directly back into the schools themselves.  On the flip side, for-profit colleges operate more like a traditional business.  They are usually subsidiaries of a larger corporation.  And these schools have investors who expect to make money (hence for-profit).

For-profit schools also tend to be more bare bones and have less of a feeling of community and camaraderie.  They don’t often have a campus; instead they frequently lease building space.  Indeed, you won’t find a lot of tailgating or frat parties happening at a for-profit college. 

Academically speaking, professors at non-profit institutions generally design their courses and implement their own lesson plans.  They might choose to deviate from their syllabi or revise it from semester to semester.  For-profit schools, on the other hand, often have a predetermined lesson plan that was created by an academic committee.  The for-profit college will then hire an instructor to execute said plan.  It’s unlikely to find an instructor who will deviate. 

Moreover, for-profit schools tend to focus on job-specific curriculums.  You won’t necessarily see many people enrolled majoring in English or art history.  Instead, fields like business administration, medical billing and web design are much more likely/popular.

For-profit schools are often attractive to non-traditional students.  With their myriad of online, night and weekend offerings, for-profits provide a lot of flexibility.  Many for-profit colleges are also interested in serving minority, low-income and first-generation college students. Students are typically there to acquire a specific set of skills, not engage in less tangible activities such as personal growth and academic exploration.      

Of course, when trying to decide what kind of school is best for you, it’s important to highlight the discrepancy between graduation rates.  Studies have shown that students who attend bachelor’s programs at for-profit schools tend to graduate at a much lower rate than those who attend non-profit colleges. This can be attributed to many reasons, including fewer support services and less community. Traditional non-profit schools tend offer more support and career services to their students and alumni.  They also generally have more name recognition. 

Regardless of whether or not you end up attending a non-profit or for-profit college, you want to ensure that the school in which you enroll is accredited.  Accreditation ensures that your school is meeting certain academic standards.  And that should be a top priority for you.  After all, you’re spending a lot of your time and money on your education.  You want it to be worth your while. 



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Don Munce