For-Profit Universities: When They Work and When They Don’t

If you are considering enrollment at a for-profit college, you’ll have to proceed with caution. For-profit colleges are not the best option for many students, but they do work for a select few. A “for-profit college” is one that is usually parented by a large corporation – one that is greatly concerned about increasing revenue to keep its stakeholders (shareholders, administrators, executives, partner corporations) happy. Notice how I did not include “students” as one of the stakeholders? Some would argue that students are stakeholders for for-profit colleges. That may be, but they are the least of all stakeholders, because students are simply seen as dollar signs to the parent corporation. This is why enrollment numbers are more important to a for-profit college than academic quality, college preparation, and affordable tuition costs. The phenomenally low graduation rates at the leading for-profit institutions support this claim.

For-profit universities receive a lot of bad publicity, and rightly so in the face of many of them skewing enrollment and graduation numbers, and practicing call-center retention methods. These colleges have also been known to allocate more revenue toward marketing and high administrator salaries – instead of funding essential academic services and quality instruction. These non-academic allocations of revenue can be observed by analyzing the parent corporation’s financial statements.

I’ve had many opportunities serving at-risk students, and have enjoyed being an advocate for their best interests. Being a college adviser is great job to have if you truly enjoy helping people in need. But that’s part of the problem in for-profit academia – there are just way too many at-risk students who have been unethically enrolled and in need of serious remedial services, which most of the for-profit colleges have not incorporated into their model. Remember, it’s called “for-profit”, not “for-student” education. In other words, serving the students’ best interests comes second to turning a high profit for the stakeholders.

I have experienced many eye-popping situations and saw first-hand how prospective students can be taken advantage of for the sake of the stakeholders’ pocket book. I am confident in my opinion that for-profit colleges have significantly added speed and depth to the student loan debt crisis. I really don’t think we’re concerned or aware of how detrimental this is to our nation’s future, because I still see far too many unprepared and under-resourced students flood through the for-profit gates and leaving without a degree, yet these same people are leaving with a sizable tuition balance for unearned college credit. Even the students who have graduated are upset with the amount of debt accrued, and unable to find the employment they expected or were promised during the enrollment process.

Though not the only reason for the student loan debt crisis, for-profit colleges stand out because of harmful student recruitment practices, which they’ve adopted from metric based call-center approaches. These practices are harmful because admission and retention personnel are trained to view students as numbers, not human beings with different levels of intelligence and preparedness.

But besides the negative facts, are there any positive aspects to “for-profit” education? Short answer, yes – but for a certain population.

For-profit colleges do work for a particular kind of student. They work for:

  • The professional worker who is certain that a degree from a for-profit college will help with job promotion, has the cash to pay for the program outright, cannot attend classes at a traditional ground campus, and can handle a fast paced online course load without stopping.
  • The person who did their due diligence in researching the program’s graduation rate, employment placement rates, tuition costs, fees, and understands the true worth of the program upon completion.
  • The professional adult who can fund the college costs through an employer sponsored tuition assistance program.
  • The person who is not dependent on student loans to pay tuition costs (aka – a wealthy student)
  • Military or government personnel who will have all tuition costs covered by grants.
  • The student who has been awarded a full scholarship, and does not need financial assistance.

If you, or someone you know, is considering enrollment at a for-profit college – please ensure that they are the kind of student aforementioned above: one who is set in a profession, does not need federal or private student loans to cover tuition costs, has done their research on the program, and knows that a degree from the institution will help with promotion or positive career change. Otherwise, they may be promised a great education, great job, and the American Dream, only to find out later, after taking on a lot of student loan debt, that they were misled by an enrollment department that perceived them simply as dollar signs, not human beings.

Not all enrollment personnel, or for-profit colleges, are so characteristically conniving – but many of them are. Proceed with much caution when considering a for-profit university.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Tags: for-profit schools

Leave a comment