Is it Better to Attend a For-Profit or Non-Profit College/University?

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The higher education market has exploded with for-profit colleges in recent years. For-profit schools like the University of Phoenix, Capella University, and DeVry University are popularly advertised. Many students are left confused about what makes for-profit schools different and whether they’re actually good investments. Unlike traditional non-profit colleges that charge tuition solely to cover education costs, for-profit schools look to make money. For-profit universities are often run by publicly traded corporations that answer to their investors. They’re proprietary businesses aiming to strike a profit by offering educational services. In this article, we’ll delve into the heated debate on whether it’s better for students to select for-profit or non-profit colleges.

Pros and Cons of For-Profit Colleges

For-profit schools are frequently criticized and given a poor reputation, but they do offer several learning benefits. There’s a reason why for-profit colleges claim 9.1 percent of college enrollment in America. Non-traditional students may prefer enrolling at for-profit colleges because they’re more flexible. Most for-profit universities have a myriad of class formats, whether online, during evenings, or on weekends. Campuses can be scattered across multiple states for convenience. That’s ideal for working full-time professionals needing to crunch studying into busy schedules. For-profit institutions generally have career-oriented curricula that don’t require exploring liberal arts and humanities like non-profits. Focused majors like business, engineering, web design, medical coding, and information technology are very popular.

Deciding to attend a for-profit college has downsides though. For-profit universities usually only lease office buildings that can’t provide the traditional college campus atmosphere. Great emphasis is placed on generating revenue, so tuition costs are raised often. The NCES reports that four-year, for-profit institutions cost $23,135 on average every year. Most non-profit universities pay their faculty members considerably lower salaries. The job-specific curriculum may be predetermined for professors to strictly follow. Instructors may not even need a master’s degree to execute the lessons. Less interactive learning environments result in a low six-year graduation rate of 32 percent at for-profits. Alumni from for-profit universities also report inferior starting salaries and less enthusiasm about their education.

Pros and Cons of Non-Profit Colleges

Non-profit entities are much more numerous in higher education. They include state, private, liberal arts, and community colleges with actual campuses. Students at non-profits are more likely to live on-site and attend classes face-to-face. Non-profit universities spend tuition solely on educating their students, which usually causes higher quality learning. Professors are well-paid and well-educated, mostly at the PhD level. Tuition costs at non-profit colleges can be considerably lower than for-profits. Public, non-profit universities charge an average in-state tuition of $9,410. Degrees from non-profit colleges are generally more respected by employers in today’s competitive market. One Harkin report also revealed that only 48 percent of public, non-profit students are strapped with loan debt.

In comparison to for-profits, non-profit colleges are much more selective. The admissions process at non-profit schools won’t be open, which could be detrimental to students with lower grades and test scores. Non-profit universities usually have less flexible learning options that will require commuting to a physical campus, including in hazardous winter conditions. Working students often have extra childcare and transportation costs when attending non-profit institutions. Non-profit universities may have large lecture halls with numerous lower-division students and less professor interaction. Some for-profits have been condemned for poor practices, but non-profit entities aren’t immune to university scandals. For example, American University’s president was fired in 2005 for using university funds to afford his 13-course engagement party.

Picking the Best University for You

There isn’t one right answer to whether for-profit or non-profit colleges are superior. It’s a matter of personal preference. Consider the above pros and cons to determine which college type best fits your learning needs. Don’t be dissuaded from for-profit universities solely because of bad press, and don’t simply pick a non-profit college because it’s “traditional.” Conduct your own research to make a well-informed, individualized decision. Always make sure your for-profit or non-profit college choices are regionally accredited. Double check their accreditation status with the U.S. Department of Education to guarantee credit transfer, financial aid, and high academic standards. Selecting the right college ensures your 4+ years will establish a direct pathway to career success and satisfaction.