FORBES: In Defense of For-Profit Colleges

Career College Central Summary:

  • For-profit colleges have been targeted by government officials, including President Obama and California Attorney General Kamala Harris HRS -0.04%, who claim these schools take advantage of low-income students, burdening them with student debt and limited job prospects upon graduation (if they graduate at all). Yet, these same officials are unfairly aiming their crosshairs at for-profit institutions while applying weaker standards and greater accommodation with not-for-profit schools.
  • For-profit schools enable low-income and racial minority students, including many who are non-traditional, to gain practical, skills-based training that better equips them for the marketplace relative to many traditional academic paths. As Manhattan Institute adjunct fellow Judah Bellin points out, New York State’s two-year, degree-granting, for-profit colleges graduate a higher percentage of their students than any other higher education sector, including private non-profit colleges.
  • A generation ago, for-profit schools awarded virtually no bachelor’s degrees. Today, for-profit colleges account for 20 percent of associate’s degrees and 7 percent of bachelor’s degrees. As STEM careers become ever more important, critics should take note that for-profit colleges produce 51 percent of associate degrees in computer science and information technology, according to research by Harvard University.
  • In a bipartisan age of seeking ways to reduce incarceration and help improve opportunities for low-income men, data from the National Center for Education Statistics show that private for-profit institutions males had a higher graduation rate than females (35 vs. 28 percent). Geographically, just 18 percent of associate-degree students and 12 percent of students enrolled in certificate programs at for-profits have nonprofit alternatives (certificate programs in the same field of study) in their ZIP code, according to a study by a Northwestern University economist and the consultancy Charles River Associates for the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities.
  • “It’s about time to bring them in from out of the cold,” economist Robert Cherry of Brooklyn College–City University of New York said of for-profit schools at a recent American Enterprise Institute discussion on black male empowerment. As Cherry also noted, these for-profit associate and occupational programs don’t preclude advancement into four-year college programs. They just help enable a solid base to build upon—that is, they are “stackable,” as author Nicholas Wyman argues in his book Job U: How to Find Wealth and Success by Developing the Skills Companies Actually Need.

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