For Profit Colleges Changing the Landscape of Higher Education

Since many colleges and universities are cutting costs, which in turn leads to staff cuts and the inability to educate large quantities of new students, the tuition rates of private, for-profit universities are rising.

More students today are enrolling in career colleges rather than traditional institutions. In fact, enrollment rates at career colleges are increasing by nearly 9 percent every year compared to just under 2 percent for other schools. About 10 percent of all students receiving higher education are enrolled at for-profit universities, such as the University of Phoenix. In fact, some for-profit universities are now educating more students than the largest public universities in certain states. During 2009, for-profit universities earned $26 billion dollars of revenue.

Since many for-profit universities are publically traded companies, many shareholders are encouraging these universities to attempt to recruit students other universities are turning away. Likewise, for-profit universities are aggressively recruiting new students since the federal government has committed $12 billion dollars over the next decade to assist 5 million people interested in completing 2-year college programs. Since for-profit universities are growing in popularity, it is likely many students using this federal money to fund their education will enroll in these universities.

Even though more students are enrolling in for-private universities, many people, especially professors teaching at traditional universities, believe the education offered at for-private schools is average. They also believe these schools do not adequately prepare students for the workforce, and the tuition is grossly overpriced.

The competition between for-profit and traditional universities is forcing more traditional schools to adapt to the education realities of today. Traditional schools are spending more resources recruiting non-traditional students, organizing online classes, and cutting costs by offering fewer professors tenured positions. However, traditional universities are adapting slowly since many universities have been managed and operated in the same way for decades. Most for-profit universities are constantly adapting to meet the ever-changing education needs of students.

During the early 80's, few students enrolled in for-private universities. During this time, these universities were small schools providing specialized vocational instruction for people living in large urban areas, such as New York and Boston. These for-profit schools provided instruction for people interested in working in healthcare, clerical administration, and other fields. Most students were adults with full-time jobs and family responsibilities seeking to improve their skills to get promotions or find better jobs.

Although for-profit universities still cater to the same types of students and still focus heavily on vocational training, the market for higher education has changed. A small number of private companies own most for-profit universities nationwide. In the past, a very small percentage of these schools offered 4-year or graduate degrees; however, more than 50 percent of for-profit schools now offer all the degrees available at traditional schools. Likewise, most students now enrolled at for-profit schools are completing associate's, bachelor's, or master's programs rather than receive vocational training. Another striking change is that the majority of students at these schools now study full-time. Since more students are enrolling at for-profit schools, it's creating competition among these institutions and other traditional colleges. This will hopefully lead to more innovative strategies for delivering educational instruction and drive costs down, making college education more affordable.

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