Economic Find: For Profit Colleges

Over the past decade, for-profit higher education has proliferated throughout the academic landscape. These institutions claim to open doors for folks from all walks of life, but in reality prey upon the most needy, leaving many students in a mountain of risky debt, while slyly ripping off the Federal government’s student aid programs.

It is an oft-cited myth that for-profit colleges are more affordable and accessible for non-traditional students (e.g. professional development, continuing education, etc.) as compared to their private and public non-profit counterparts.  In reality, however, for-profit colleges are on average less affordable than state universities who often offer continuing and professional education programs geared towards flexible scheduling and non-traditional students.  On average, for-profit students are left with $23,230 more debt than public university students (see chart below) and are less than half as likely to graduate, with for-profit graduation rates at 22%, compared to 55% for their public university counterparts.

For students looking for flexible programs to better their skills and capabilities, public continuing and online education programs which offer similar programs at lower costs are a much safer, sustainable, and more student-friendly alternative to opportunistic for-profit universities.

For-Profit Colleges



Created by Member Economist Anastasia Wilson

October 2011