Tidbits, Resources, and Discussion for ELI Faculty

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

For-Profit Colleges and Career and Technical Credentials

There's an interesting blurb in a recent edition of the Chronicle indicating that there's been a shift toward more career and technical credentials being awarded by for-profit institutions rather than community colleges. (We still award most of these credentials, but the proportion has shifted--or, is shifting.)

I will ignore the various bizarre comments people posted in response to the blurb (though you might want to read them, for your entertainment and aggrivation)... my question to you is this: why do students choose for-profit institutions rather than community college, when we offer the same credentials at much lower cost? We need to serve this group of students better. How could we better let them know that we are here for them?


Miriam said...

I have two possibilities:
1.) Many of the career colleges are on an accelerated program. Students can earn an AA or AAS degree in 15 - 20 months.
2.) Some of the for-profit career colleges employ sales people, and train them in strong selling techniques that bring students in. Even those that would be better suited at a community college. I wonder what a comparison of retention rates would look like? Community colleges vs. the for profits?

Anonymous said...

I think some of the for-profits not only offer a hard sell but promises of job placement when the students complete the program. Diane Thompson

Anonymous said...

While I do agree with the two previous comments you also need to look at how the student is treated.

For profit is a business, run by business people. This tends to lead to students being treated in a more professional manner - like a business person, a working adult.

Community college lumps everyone into one category: student. The 45 year old working professional is treated the same way as an 18 year old high school graduate.

There are big differences between those two groups. Professors often treat adults like little kids.

My 19 year old son is a full-time student in his sophomore year at a 4-year university. He is also attending full-time, evening classes at a trade school for additional certifications. One thing he recently pointed out to me was why he loved the evening classes so much more than going to school with a bunch of other 19 year olds in the daytime.

He said, in the evening, everyone is very mature and he feels like he is treated with respect by his instructors. During the day he feels like professors treat him like he's a little brat as they are often quite condescending to him.

As a working professional, who needs an upgrade in the education department, we know you're there. If you can show us a professor that can treat us with respect: one adult willing to impart knowledge to another adult, then I think you might see an increase in tuition.

Laura said...

all of these observations make much sense to me. The anecdote in the previous comment (writer's 19 year old son's experience) is most informative.

My own additional observations: there are many more TV/radio advertisments for for-profit vs. other schools. I do not think many students may even be aware that there is a difference and that these are "for-profits" being advertised vs. "regular" schools (they call themselves "colleges" or "institutes" or even "universities") (Miriam's #2 point). What potential students DO see in these schools is that they offer intense focus on courses directly related to their career goals (miriam's point #1). Students need not take courses they are not personally interested in to pursue a "gen ed" program and get a liberal arts degree. I recall being a college student with the idea that I was preparing for a specific career goal. Luckily, being enrolled in a "regular" college rather than a "for-profit" (did they have them in those days?) I also got a well rounded liberal education because, by the time I finished my studies I was no longer interested in the career field I started out working toward. I thus had the credentials needed to move on in my education to pursue my new interest. Young people today (perhaps always) are perhaps too anxious to get out there and start their career and don't realize the value of a more general higher education. Maybe Miriam is right: it's a failure to sell ourselves as well as a failure of our society in general to sell the value of a good, well rounded education rather than a mere focus on practical skills to "make a buck"

fmcdonald said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
fmcdonald said...

In addition to all the excellent points on the differences between for-profits vs. non-profits, is for-profit institutions practice a customer-oriented approach. They may use business sales people to get students into their schools, but they still need to provide the education and student support services to keep and sustain them through students' completion of courses and programs. For example, do student services such as testing and the library fulfill the needs of students, especially adult working professionals?

Laura said...

Fran has a good point. Judging by the number of students we get who fail, withdraw or otherwise do poorly in our classes, I sometimes wonder if we are throwing our students into the deep end of higher ed with little support to orient them to higher ed, and little proactive intervention when we see them getting into academic trouble. Our students do tend to be younger, on average, than those "adult" learners going to the for-profits. In addition, some of them are coming to community college because they could not get into a 4-year school. If anything, our students need MORE academic support than they might get at a for-profit. So our younger students drop-out and, when older and working, where do they go? To those "for-profits" that cater better to their multiple needs (having perceived a "regular" college as "not for them" since they failed at it earlier).