If you've clicked on this, you're probably just as confused as I was about what a "for-profit education" or a "for-profit college" really meant. Little did I know, they're everywhere - remember ITT Tech? A for-profit education is described as "proprietary schools" in business, to make money for owners and shareholders by offering a service. It should be pointed out that this service, in this case, is education. So, if you were confused, here's a little bit of information on what a for-profit education is and how to detect it. 

Quick Facts

They usually offer programs that not every school offers, such as criminal justice or information systems. They also are known for getting the attention of the non-traditional student – the ones who maybe haven't gone to school right away or have been working right out of college in order to provide for a family. This is an opportunity for students to get out there and a find a field that they're interested in. Of course, there are some downfalls to a for-profit college. Apparently, only 28% of for-profit college students graduate with a four year degree as opposed to 65% of non-profit college students. Another source states that the average tuition cost for for-profit colleges is around $31,000 as opposed to a non-profit college, with a price of $26,000. 

Motivating Factor

A for-profit institution will focus on providing good returns to their shareholders and stakeholders. What does this mean? It means that their focus is making a profit. I mean, it's in the name. This is obviously going to be the priority in the education, even if education is also part of the name. 


Non-profits are usually more affordable, and are typically competitive with public university costs, so they are seen on a similar caliber with those schools. For-profits, however, are more expensive, and are sometimes even called "high-tuition schools." 

Greenwood Hall 

Who's in Control

A 2012 U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Labor, Education and Pensions Report states that most for-profit schools are traded or owned by private equity firms. Their controllers, besides students and faculty as members of the school, are shareholders. This means that if the school doesn't do what a shareholder says, they could lose a lot of money and eventually no longer exist. 

Recent News

CNN recently came out with an article that talked about how there are tons of critics of for-profit colleges because they've lured "low-income students with false promises and then provided a subpar education." ITT Tech, for example, was shut down this year and is currently facing multiple lawsuits that claim a misled perspective. Other schools in DeVry University and the Education Management Corporation are finding themselves in a similar situation. ITT Tech was especially important because they have marketed themselves online and through social media well, showing struggling students before attending, then seeing a massive change in attitude after graduating. CNN reports that they heard from multiple students that after going through a program at the school, "they were ultimately never able to find work in their field." 

Retention Rate Issues

The big issue with for-profit colleges is their retention rate given light of news similar to that of ITT Tech. David Dies, the executive director of Wisconsin's for-profit education regulator, states that for-profit schools are struggling to retain students because more are dropping out than graduating. Stats show that about 31% of students didn't return for a second year, which is up about 4% from two years earlier. This type of drop in retention is being seen all over the country. 

Some Optimism 

All this crazy stuff aside, for-profit colleges aren't always that bad. One Forbes article states that for-profit colleges may actually be responsible for giving out more than half of the associate degrees in STEM related field (science, technology, engineering and math). A lot of people also say that these schools provide education for those who would otherwise not be able to afford it, or find better work. It should also be noted that for-profit schools probably play a significant role in our economy as well. By having shareholders, they're moving money around that would otherwise not be used. That's important! Also, DeVry University is home to an Olympian, Adeline Gray!

So while there are many ups – and many downs – to a for-profit college, don't feel like you can't attend one! It's important to do your research, and it's equally important to make sure that it's the school for you. 

Lead Image Credit: Fox 5 News