What students, alumni and employers think about for-profit colleges

Stefanie Botelho's picture
Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Current and former for-profit students are satisfied with the quality of their schools. But they also consider the financial burden of these schools high, and alumni in particular aren't certain their degree was worth it. Many employers perceive no differences between for-profit and public sector institutions, and some are actually unfamiliar with for-profit schools. Among those who do see a difference, most say community colleges and four-year public universities do a better job than for-profits at preparing students for the workplace.

Generally, students – prospective, current and graduates – and employers also seem quite distanced from the enthusiastic policy conversation about for-profit colleges. For-profit colleges dominate headlines (most recently because of federal government scrutiny) and are a top concern for education leaders and policymakers. But most students and employers are actually unfamiliar with the term. Many for-profit students don't even realize that the school they're attending is a for-profit.

Moreover, leaders in higher education, the federal government and philanthropy invest time and effort to make comparative information about colleges more easily accessible and engaging so that students can make informed – and presumably better – decisions about their education. These findings suggest that for-profit students are not comparative shoppers. Just 39 percent considered more than one school before attending, and 20 percent considered a not-for-profit.

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