Higher Education’s Wily Newcomer
THE SOURCE: “The For-Profit Postsecondary School Sector: Nimble Critters or Agile Predators?” by David J. Deming, Claudia Goldin, and Lawrence F. Katz, in Journal of Economic Perspectives, Winter 2012.
The for-profit college is a relatively new animal in U.S. higher education. But it is rapidly making its presence known: The proportion of students enrolled in for-profit schools grew from less than one percent in 1970 to more than nine percent in 2009. Harvard economists David J. Deming, Claudia Goldin, and Lawrence F. Katz say it remains to be seen whether these new institutions are “nimble critters” using innovative methods to bring a needed service to an underserved population or “agile predators” picking the pockets of guileless students.
The three economists compared the educational and vocational status of students at for-profit colleges, community colleges, and other nonselective nonprofit institutions in the 2003–04 academic year. For-profit schools performed better than their competitors at enrolling students who normally struggle to see the inside of a college classroom, such as single parents, low-income students, and GED holders. For-profit schools also did a slightly better job at retaining students in short-term certificate and associate’s degree programs, posting modestly higher completion rates than nonprofit two- or four-year colleges.
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