INSIDE HIGHER ED: The Shrinking Sector

Career College Central Summary:

  • As enrollments tumble at for-profit colleges, the number of proprietary institutions is dwindling, too.
  • Data released by the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics Thursday show that 3,436 for-profit colleges participated in federal financial aid programs in the just-ended academic year, down 2.6 percent, from 3,527 such institutions two years earlier, in the 2012-13 academic year.
  • For all the talk about the financial vulnerability of private nonprofit colleges in the wake of recent campus closures (and near closures), meanwhile, the number of such institutions actually increased marginally from 2012-13 to 2014-15, as seen in the table below. And the number of public colleges dipped by just under 1 percent.
  • Most of the decline among for-profit institutions occurred in four-year institutions (from 790 to 738) and two-year institutions (1,042 to 965), while the number of fewer-than-two-year campuses rose, to 1,733 from 1,695.
  • The erosion of for-profit campuses is not surprising, given the various forces — regulatory and financial — that have been buffeting the sector.
    The NCES report also provides data on enrollments, which parallel those already reported in recent months by the National Student Clearinghouse. The clearinghouse's more timely enrollment reports provide year-over-year comparisons each semester; the federal data, from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, provide unduplicated annual enrollments for a full academic year, in this case 2013-14 (a year earlier than the institutional numbers).

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