Where For-profit and Nonprofit Meet

The line between for-profit and nonprofit education continues to blur in Massachusetts.

Earlier this year, the Princeton Review signed a deal with Bristol Community College, in Fall River, to offer accelerated health science degree programs to students willing to pay a higher tuition.

These programs are offered in hybrid fashion, combining online coursework with in-person lab time. They are taught by Bristol faculty members but delivered by the Princeton Review, which pays for the expensive lab equipment and new teaching facilities. Otherwise, the only difference between these and traditional health science programs at Bristol is that the Princeton Review-sponsored programs can be completed in about half the time, but only if students fork over $100 more per credit hour — $246 instead of $146. This tuition differential is then given to the Princeton Review.

After months of planning and negotiations with concerned faculty, the accelerated classes in medical information and coding, massage therapy and general health science began last week at Bristol. While officials there defend their decision to team up with the Princeton Review — arguing that they have found a way to expand access for their students in tough economic times without surrendering their academic integrity — administrators at other institutions around the state are considering whether they should enter into similar agreements with the for-profit company. Faculty groups, however, remained concerned about Princeton Review’s plans to expand within Massachusetts, arguing that those plans threaten the traditional public mission of community colleges.

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