Janet Lorin at Bloomberg News reports that “Students at for-profit colleges are more likely to be unemployed and earn less in the six years after graduation than their peers at community colleges, according to a study by Harvard University researchers.” The report released Feb. 22 by the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment at Teachers College of Columbia University notes that a larger percent of students at for-profit colleges “tend to struggle in college.”
For-profit colleges educate a larger fraction of minority, disadvantaged and older students who are disproportionately single parents, have lower family incomes and are twice as likely to have a GED, or high school equivalent diploma, according to the report. The schools are required to hit benchmarks for loan repayment and graduates’ incomes to qualify for federal student aid.
“We also find that for-profit students end up with higher unemployment and ‘idleness’ rates and lower earnings six years after entering programs than do comparable students from other schools, and that they have far greater student debt burdens and default rates on their student loans,” wrote Harvard researchers David Deming, Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, who are affiliated with the New York-based center.
Private for-profit institutions have been the fastest- growing part of the U.S. higher education industry. More students are attending for-profits, with enrollment increasing from 0.2 percent to 9.1 percent of total enrollment in degree- granting schools from 1970 to 2009, according to the report. The study looked at federal data from the Beginning Postsecondary Students longitudinal survey from 2004 to 2009.
Colleges in the sector educate nontraditional students “who would not otherwise have access to a post-secondary education,” Steve Gunderson, president of the Washington-based Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, said in an e-mailed statement. “Our schools serve individuals who are committed to a specific occupational goal and seek the most direct route to obtaining it.”