Catherine Rampell: Reasons behind the bad reputation of for-profit colleges

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  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Oct. 1, 2014 11:24 a.m.

    Markets do most things very well. There are simply some areas where the model breaks down. This is one of them.

  • ordinaryfolks seattle, WA
    Oct. 1, 2014 7:50 a.m.

    Nothing, absolutely nothing, that advertises that much on television is worth the price. Not drugs, not shampoo, not toilet paper, nothing.

    What kind of fool throws money at these places? The answer is a desperate one who actually believes that these profit universities will find you a job to make you a fortune. These same people also believe that a certain breakfast food will make the family perfect and that your new cleaning device will make housework a pleasure, and your home fit for House and Garden magazine.

    PT Barnum sure knew his Americans.

  • Another Perspective Bountiful, UT
    Oct. 1, 2014 6:31 a.m.

    A friend of my son decided to go to a for profit college. He got a degree of business/computer. Upon graduation he couldn't get a job. People he interviewed with said the degree didn't teach enough about computer that they could hire him for that, nor enough about business that they could hire him for that. He had spent $40,000 and was saying he would have to get another student loan and get another degree.

  • Howard Beal Provo, UT
    Sept. 30, 2014 9:50 p.m.

    If it isn't an Ivy League School, Northwestern, Stanford or Cal-Berkley, no college education is worth 100K. Ouch!

  • GaryO Virginia Beach, VA
    Sept. 30, 2014 3:34 p.m.

    Well . . . I graduated with and MBA degree from the University of Phoenix in 2007. GE, the company I was working for at the time, was willing to pay for my tuition, and so I went for it.

    The UOP was just about my only option too. They had a special arrangement with GE at the time (maybe they still do, I don't know), and that was the way to go.

    Since I was working full time and traveled a lot, an online degree through the University of Phoenix made sense. I actually enjoyed the learning experience, and I really got into it.

    I did invest a considerable amount of time, effort, and dedication juggling school with everything else, so yes, I am disappointed to hear that an MBA from the UOP isn't exactly respected now by some employers.

    But I did not have to pay the thirty something thousand dollars for tuition, AND I do have an MBA now, and I think I'm the better for it because I learned a lot . . . So I guess I can't complain.

  • Ranch Here, UT
    Sept. 30, 2014 2:37 p.m.

    Having been in the position of hiring graduates of various schools for a position in a professional field, I have interviewed students from both public and for-profit schools. The graduates of the for-profits never interviewed well, and upon being asked: "If I were to hire you, could you sit down and begin doing X immediately", the answer was invariably "No".

    Many of these schools teach a subject in a week or two and move on to the next subject. Students have no grounding in the basics after such rushed coursework.

    I guess I'm one of those managers who has a poor perception of for-profit schools. But my perception has been proven by experience.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Sept. 30, 2014 2:08 p.m.

    @Rule of Law – “Similar audit studies have shown that employers' perceptions tend to be racist and sexist as well.”

    I don’t think these two situations are analogous.

    With the first, we’re talking about deep seated prejudices that have germinated for hundreds or perhaps thousands of years, whereas the latter is simply about making practical judgments on the value of someone’s education.

    One judgment (for some) is deeply emotional where the other seems pretty straight forward rational.

  • Rule of Law Pittsburgh, PA
    Sept. 30, 2014 11:50 a.m.

    @Tyler D

    Similar audit studies have shown that employers' perceptions tend to be racist and sexist as well. The article even alludes to this (albeit without further discussion as to why these results should be treated differently). And yet most people wouldn't chalk that up to inferiority of these groups.

  • Clarissa Layton, UT
    Sept. 30, 2014 11:37 a.m.

    I've looked at for profit schools, and was quite amazed. They didn't seem to make you take mathematics, writing, history, biology, physics, and many other classes. It appears to me that a person who attends a traditional school is so much more rounded intellectually. So if you, as an employer, have a choice between a school which just teaches basics for a particular area or one that gives you a much more rigorous graduation requirement, they probably will go for the better educated (all-around) person to hire.

  • Madden Herriman, UT
    Sept. 30, 2014 9:53 a.m.

    I don't doubt that some great people and late bloomers go to for-profits for the flexibility, and much of the education given there is better than you'd get at universities (who hasn't had a nutty professor who lives for research and is terrible at teaching?). The bottom line is that most of the top performers NEVER attend a for-profit school, so employers don't want to risk hiring from there.

    It mainly comes down to selection. If you get an MBA from BYU or Utah, I know the school screened you and that you are a pretty high achiever, just to GET IN to the program shows that. Then the reputation of the school's alumni is good enough that I trust the education was decent. With for-profits, there is no screening and employers have little faith that competent people go there. The best folks apply to and get into a “real” college. Perception wins the day.

  • Laura Bilington Maple Valley, WA
    Sept. 30, 2014 9:41 a.m.

    @TopDaddy and others: Check into Western Governor's University. It is a PUBLIC online college with an excellent reputation and costs way, way less than your for-profit schools. Also, the credits from WGU will transfer to many, many public colleges, unlike those at the for-profit schools.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Sept. 30, 2014 9:09 a.m.

    @Rule of Law – “However the conclusions drawn seem a bit premature to me.”

    I disagree.

    If employer’s perceptions did not match reality (i.e., for-profit schools were actually as good or better) then a few employers could act on that widespread misperception and (all other things being equal) gain a competitive advantage over employers acting under the misperception.

    The fact that employers think these schools are inferior really does tells us everything we need to know.

  • Rule of Law Pittsburgh, PA
    Sept. 30, 2014 8:52 a.m.

    Interesting article, but I think it leaves more questions than it answers. For instance:

    Why is the graduation rate lower? At-risk students? Higher percentage of part-time students? (It's harder for a part-time student to graduate within 6 years at any university, for-profit or otherwise.) Switching majors? Students stopping classes for a while, then starting again in a year or two? Maybe the goal of some students is different than "get a degree"?

    Why did employers in the audit study show less interest in the for-profit degrees? Is the perception of lower quality really fair? The author explains that audit studies are often used to look at discrimination, but why do those studies result in calls for eliminating the discrimination and this one is used to say "no, the degrees really are lower-quality and we need to reduce funding going to these schools"?

    I'm not saying there aren't improvements that should be made in the for-profit education business, on the contrary I think it's pretty well established that there are. However the conclusions drawn seem a bit premature to me.

  • TopDaddy Hooper, UT
    Sept. 30, 2014 8:17 a.m.

    I tried, rather unsuccessfully, to complete my Bachelor degree at a puclic university. One of the biggest challenges I faced was the availability of classes that fit my work and family schedules. This became especially important, and ever more difficult, after I became a father and as my children grew. Finally, I started to lose credits at the public university and realized that the only way I would ever graduate was to attend a for-profit university. Now, I can't afford to go to a public school with the demands of home and family, it's just not feasible.

  • Max Upstate, NY
    Sept. 30, 2014 7:53 a.m.

    I know a young man who amassed $100,000 in debt for a two-year degree from Bryant and Stratton (California). What a tragedy! He could have had the the same (or probably much better) degree from one of California's many fine community colleges for 5 or 10 thousand.

  • Roland Kayser Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Sept. 30, 2014 6:12 a.m.

    Anyone who claims that private business always does things better than the government should read this. There are no for profit colleges that rank with the better public universities.