For-Profit College Enrollment Surging

By Staff
September 10, 2009

For-profit institutions are seeing record enrollment throughout the country.

Indiana's South Bend Tribune reports that among 10 of the country's largest for-profit colleges, enrollment in the quarter that ended June 30 was up by 12 to over 100 percent more than at the same time last year. The majority of schools saw at least a 20 percent increase in enrollment.

"For a lot of people, they don't want to go to a traditional college," said Michael Anderson, an instructor at Milwaukee Career College who was interviewed by Wisconsin's Journal Sentinel. "They want specialized skills. They don't have a lot of time to go back to school."

David Dies, executive secretary of the Wisconsin Educational Approval Board, which oversees 154 for-profit and nonprofit postsecondary schools in the state, has seen significant growth in the number of for-profit institutions. "You look at the career schools, the private for-profit institutions, and the trend has been almost hard to chart," he said. "It's going right through the roof." notes that DeVry, for example, reported a 43 percent revenue increase in August, and an overall 34 percent increase this year compared to last. And Apollo Group, the company that owns University of Phoenix, reported that its third-quarter profit jumped 45 percent.

"The recession may be ending, but unemployment isn't," noted James Maher of investment bank ThinkEquity. "That is a lagging indicator. Dig into the unemployment report, and you'll see that the unemployment rate is substantially higher for those people with just a high school diploma or some college. Those folks will continue to look to bring new skills to their job searches and careers."

Career colleges say they have significant advantages over traditional postsecondary institutions: They note that their programs are more focused and offer hours and support services more conducive to parents and workers. In addition, they have smaller classes and are more placement-oriented.

"People aren't really that stupid," said Harris Miller, president of the Career College Association in Washington, D.C., who was quoted in the Sentinel. "If they thought they could get the same education at the community college for $3,000 that they're getting at the career college for $10,000, they'd go to the community college."

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