Despite Bad Press and Financial Hits, For-Profit Colleges Could Be Key Source of Transfers

In a recent article in Inside Higher Education, transfer expert Marc Cutright of the University of North Texas writes about the growing importance that four-year colleges and universities should place on students transferring from community college. Public colleges, led by community colleges, grant more than a half million associate degrees annually and the number grew by 27% over a decade. But what about that other sector seeing large enrollment growth: for-profit colleges?

In a year of generally bad press for for-profit colleges—ranging from high student loan default rates and declining confidence on Wall Street—the sector’s enrollment is rising, particularly at the two-year level. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2009 6% of two-year enrollments were in for-profits, up from 5% the year before.

When you consider that for-profit two-year programs have a 60% graduation rate, compared with the 22% graduation rate for public community colleges, for-profits would only need a 27% share of students to produce as many associate degrees as community colleges. If for-profits increase their market share by 1% each year, this would happen in as few as 20 years.

Last year’s was the largest single-year increase that the for-profits have seen in recent years, so that kind of continued growth is unlikely. However it does highlight the fact that this student population is growing and will needs to be considered as well.


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