A recent article from the Washington Post spurred some interesting online discussions about the advantages of for-profit universities.  In the article, columnist Jay Matthews provides five reasons why career colleges, which are relatively new to the higher education scene, will survive and thrive in the long term:

1.  For-profit schools are less of a drain on tax dollars than non-profit or public schools. Georgetown University business school researcher Robert J. Shapiro and his fellow economist Nam D. Pham found that for-profit schools received less than 30 percent of the government financial support per student that public institutions and their students do.

2.  The public and non-profit private universities that dominate higher education are doing less with their money. They are building luxury dorms, restaurants and athletic facilities which don’t produce more learning or more graduates. In 2007 the United States spent 3.1 percent of its gross domestic product on post-secondary education, twice the 1.5 percent spent by other developed countries that produce more graduates per capita. 3.  For-profit colleges often have better graduation rates for the same kind of students. U.S. Education Department data show students with two or more key risk factors, such as delayed enrollment, no high school diploma or full-time job, have only a 17 percent chance overall of getting a two-year or four-year degree. Their chances are 24 percent at for-profit schools. That’s not a big improvement, but they are doing it with fewer tax dollars.

4. In other industries, the rise of for-profits has sparked great controversy, but not for long. In the 1980s hospitals began to shift from publicly funded or non-profit to privately funded, with much criticism. Today, most of us don’t know or care how the hospitals we visit are financed.

5.  Aggressive newcomers to higher education have historically been labeled as wasteful, low-quality, hucksters cheating our youth. That was the rap against land-grant colleges and community colleges when they were created. They are now vital parts of our system. There are advantages to all higher education institutions, from community colleges to for-profit universities to traditional non-profit schools, and these are just some of the strengths held by career colleges. We also believe that for-profits’ ability to leverage IT and growing trends towards online learning will help them continue to provide an excellent, modern education in the future.  In fact, a recent study by the Department of Education found that online facilitated learning (which is common within for-profit universities) is often more effective than traditional classroom-style education. But what sets for-profit colleges apart from the rest of the online learning community?  Some of the most tangible benefits to students come from for profit schools’ dedicated curriculum development professionals, whose sole focus is to develop high-quality online course content. These schools also provide academic advisors for each student, creating a very high-touch environment conducive to successful outcomes. With advantages such as these, it will be no surprise to see for-profit colleges and universities thriving in the long term!

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