ON THE AGENDA | MAY 21ST, 2015 | Allison Rizzolo

Corinthian Dominates Headlines, but Students and Employers on For-Profits' Sidelines

For-profits may be a top concern of some of our legislators and education leaders. However, our research suggests that expert-level policy conversations about these schools are not meaningful to students and employers, two groups directly affected by the success or failure of for-profit schools.

Earlier this month, for-profit giant Corinthian Colleges officially declared bankruptcy, after having gradually closed its campuses over the past year. The high-profile failure of Corinthian – once a Wall Street darling – has cast a shadow on the for-profit college industry.

As the collapse of Corinthian dominates headlines, we worry that narratives that underscore controversy or oversimplify the higher education system may harm efforts to foster a healthier, more inclusive conversation.

For-profits may be a top concern for some of our legislators and education leaders. However, our research suggests that expert-level policy conversations about these schools are not meaningful to students and employers, two groups directly affected by the success or failure of for-profit schools.

For example, nearly half of undergraduate students currently attending a for-profit school and 41 percent of for-profit alumni are not familiar with the term "for-profit college."


Furthermore, 65 percent of for-profit undergraduates and 63 percent of for-profit alumni do not know if their school is for-profit or not. An additional 12 percent of for-profit students believe their for-profit schools are actually not-for-profit.

We find that employers share a similar lack of awareness. When we asked how much they know about for-profit colleges, just 11 percent of employers said "a lot." A third (33 percent) said they know "only a little" and 26 percent said they know "nothing at all."

When we provided employers with the names of specific for-profit colleges in their area and asked about their quality, many employers did not recognize the names or said they haven’t heard anything about those schools. In fact, 3 in 4 said they don’t know enough to judge the quality of a randomly chosen local, independent for-profit school, and half said they can’t evaluate the quality of a specific national chain or online for-profit institution.


Students are facing very important concerns about the cost of college, the debt they accrue, the skills they acquire and the value of their degree. Employers are worried about whether and how the higher education system is cultivating graduates who fit the needs of their workforce.

Yet we are failing to engage both of these sectors in the dialogue around for-profit schools. As such, students and employers may not have the chance to grapple with and understand the complex higher education system and the role for-profits ought to play in it – or in their own lives.


Comments

Non-Profit Schools

Submitted by: Anonymous Submission on Friday, May 22nd, 2015

I was hoping that you would provide an opinion as to why non-profit schools are inadequate in education or did I miss your point. Corinthian collapses, thus, all for-profit schools are bad? There has been reports of a number of brick and mortar schools going bankrupt and ceasing operations. Does this mean all traditional higher learning institutions are inadequate?


All Tax Statuses

Submitted by: Anonymous Submission on Thursday, May 28th, 2015

All schools should be subjected to the same scrutiny: both for-profit and non-profit. What you will find is that there are bad actors and under-performance in both sectors. The tax status is not how institutions should be judged. All should follow the same rules and be judged by the same standards. Then we would really see who the winners and losers are...


For-Profits

Submitted by: Edward on Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Obviously the “success” of the for-profit schools demonstrates the efficiency of the free market to always produce the best result. Given the predominance of Republican thought in today's politics, I think we are all headed in the direction of more, not less private and for profit schools, as well as any other industries that can be privatized. That's why some of the business owners use common reporting standard as advantage to these issues.


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