For-Profit Colleges Say They Are Key to Obama’s College-Completion Goal


The Chronicle article below points out that for-profit colleges can play a big role in the Obama Administration’s goal of having the world’s highest number of college graduates by 2020. Several statistics are cited, most from the National Center for Education Statistics, unless otherwise noted as follows:

  • Approximately two million students attend for-profit colleges, or about eight percent of the college-going population
  • Between the 1996-7 and 2006-7 academic years, the number of associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees awarded by private, for-profit institutions rose at a faster rate than the number of those degrees conferred by public and private nonprofit colleges: The number of associate degrees conferred by for-profit institutions more than doubled during that 10-year span, to almost 118,000. For public institutions, the number increased by 22 percent, to 567,000, during the same period. At private, nonprofit colleges the number of associate degrees decreased by almost 11 percent, to 44,000. Associate degrees awarded by for-profit institutions made up 16 percent of all associate degrees awarded in 2006-7, up from 10 percent in 1996-7.
  • The number of bachelor’s degrees conferred by for-profit institutions increased even more quickly, to 71,000 from 12,000
  • Students at for-profit institutions also tend to complete associate degrees faster than students at nonprofit colleges: The average time to completion at a for-profit college is 25.4 months, compared with 32 months at a nonprofit institution.
  • Almost half of students enrolled at a for-profit college are the first in their family to pursue a higher education, and the same proportion of for-profit-college students come from families with an income below $40,000, according to the Career College Association.

For-profit institutions for all their merits also have their flaws.  Some scholars point out that proprietary institutions are less academically rigorous and offer a narrow range of degree options as compared to community colleges and state institutions.  Additionally, they have higher default rates on student loans than students at nonprofit colleges. The article also cites a report by the Government Accountability Office that disclosed shady practices by some officials at for-profit colleges who’ve helped students pass basic-skills tests or obtain invalid high-school diplomas so they could be eligible for federal aid.  The Obama administration is reviewing rules that govern for-profit institutions to address these issues.

Whether enrolling in a for-profit or traditional institution, many students enter college in the United States without the basic academic skills needed to be successful in their coursework. Researchers from the Manhattan Institute Center for Civic Information found that only 32% of students leave high school academically prepared for college (Greene & Foster, 2003). This percentage is even lower among Black and Hispanic students (20% and 16%, respectively).

Bridget Terry Long, an Associate Professor of Education and Economics at Harvard Graduate School of Education, has analyzed this issue, which lies at the intersection of K-12 and higher education. “These staggeringly [dismal] figures are especially disconcerting, because these students are likely to need remediation in college – and far less likely to complete a degree – than classmates who enter with higher levels of skill. Ultimately, not having a college degree means these individuals will have a harder time finding meaningful work in today’s knowledge economy.”

To read the results of her report, visit:

LifeBound’s mission is to fully prepare students for success in the 21st Century starting at the fifth grade level, since middle school is when many students begin to slip academically and behavior patterns are formed that contribute to or detract from their future success in school and in life.  To receive review copies of LifeBound’s student success and transition materials, please contact us by calling toll free at 1.877.737.8510, email at or visit us online at


Chronicle of Higher Education

With about two million students in the United States now attending for-profit colleges, a number that is expected to double by 2015, leaders of those institutions say their sector must play a key role if President Obama is to meet his goal of having the world’s highest number of college graduates by 2020.

The institutions are still viewed with skepticism by some consumers and policy makers, but for-profit colleges have grown steadily. Their officials say the colleges’ performance records on enrollment and graduation demonstrate the extent to which they can fulfill America’s higher-education needs.

 To view the entire article visit

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