For-Profit University’s Shift to Division I Stokes Debate

Ann McClure's picture

College sports fans should soon be able to buy stock in a Division I program.

Grand Canyon University, a for-profit institution in Phoenix, announced this week that it would join the Western Athletic Conference, becoming the first school of its kind to compete at the highest level of N.C.A.A. athletics. The news brought chuckles from some amused by Grand Canyon’s name, bemusement from others unsure of its pedigree and a seeming nod of approval from the stock market. Grand Canyon’s stock — for the entire university, not singularly its athletics program — has risen almost $2 on the Nasdaq since the announcement Tuesday.

It also raised concern in some quarters of the academic world.

For-profit institutions have been criticized for spending more money on recruiting students and marketing their schools — particularly to draw online students — than actually educating them. A recent study found that more than half of the students who enroll in for-profit institutions leave without a degree, that those students are often left with hefty loans and that taxpayers, in a recent year, spent $32 billion on companies that operate such schools.

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