For-Profit Colleges Serve Non-Traditional Students

The differences in atmosphere between for-profit colleges and their traditional counterparts is all a question of goals, The Washington Times reports. For-profit schools don’t have campuses, sports teams, or other things that make up a typical college experience because their focus is on "no-nonsense" career training. A spokesman for Corinthian Colleges Inc., Kent Jenkins, says that their schools don’t cater to an average college student:

"We serve a different kind of student. We don’t look like a traditional college. We are built to teach folks who are looking for a different type of experience. We are about career education. We are in a business location. We have a business environment, and that’s a good thing."

Corinthian is an umbrella company for three for-profit college brands that operate schools in the U.S. and Canada. Their Everest College branch in McClean, Virginia occupies quarters that no one could mistake for a traditional college campus. They are based on the second floor of an office building located in a business park right off the I-495. They offer classes in medical assisting, nursing and other fields which are run four hours a day, five days a week.

Jenkins said that the average student attending Everest is between their mid-20s and early 30s, has children and works other jobs while attending school. The schedule is set up to accommodate them, with a school day that ends at 11pm on a weekday and some campuses offering courses on weekends.

The Obama Administration has been looking at proposals to place stricter oversight on the for-profit college industry. Senator Tom Harkin, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has held several hearings on for-profits and plans to hold another. Some senate Republicans have threatened a boycott.

Mr. Harkin and other detractors say the for-profit sector is essentially spending gobs of money on recruitment efforts, pushing cash-strapped young adults to pay for school with government grants and loans and giving them substandard education in return.

Although supporters acknowledge that the industry does have issues, they claim that the Democrats are on an ideological “witch-hunt.” After all, traditional schools are not immune from problems currently plaguing for-profit colleges such as low graduation rates or difficulties placing graduates in jobs. Penny Lee, managing director of the Coalition of Educational Success, says that she often wonders if the critics have a true idea of what for-profit colleges are:

“I think a lot of [critics] haven’t even been to an actual [for-profit] school. They’re not used to having a business model associated with education.”

Meanwhile, all the bad publicity has taken a toll on Corinthian, which saw its stock tumble after a particularly contentious senate hearing and a critical report released by the Government Accountability Office. The report found deceptive practices at 15 randomly selected for-profit schools.

The firestorm may just be getting started. The U.S. Department of Education this week finalized its proposed “gainful employment” regulation, designed to hold for-profits accountable for the taxpayer money they receive. The proposal has been sent to the White House budget office for review.


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