The For-Profit Schools (University of Phoenix, Strayer University, Capella University, Kaplan University, Northcentral University, etc.) continue to be very popular choices for adult learners. University of Phoenix is now approaching 500,000 students (online and on-campus), equaling the number of students attending all California State Universities.
The For-Profit universities attract working professionals with tuition assistance programs (TAP) at their companies. These TAP programs reimburse part or all their employees' education. However, the For-Profits also attract military personnel, new college students and other adult learners.
WHY? Generally, for-profits are more expensive than local state colleges. These schools are generally not considered "prestigious" universities and are not listed as "Top Schools" by US News and World Report or Business Week. Rarely do their academic departments gain departmental accreditation.
So, what makes For-Profit Colleges so popular? Here are some main reasons:
1) Advertising. These schools have money to put ads in magazines, newspapers, radio and even TV. The advertising touts these schools as "the best" or "one of the best". Any Internet search on "online schools", "top accredited schools" or "best MBA programs" will show these For-Profit Schools in the listings. Prospective students may not realize that the school shows up because the school has PAID to show up on the lists.
2) Marketing. The For-Profits do a good job working with corporations to obtain corporate/university partnerships. With these partnerships, the company gains discounted tuition for their employees. Some of these colleges work with the company's training department to evaluate corporate classes into college credits.
3) Customer Service. If a request for information is sent to a for-profit school, a representative will call or email that prospective client back immediately. This may not be the case with local state or private schools. Some state schools' departmental budgets have been so severely cut that there is no money for personnel to call back inquiries or answering general questions. Also part of customer service is to make it very easy for prospective students to enroll. Some for-profits assist in obtaining former transcripts. Most of these schools do not require an admission test.
4) Shorter Path to Graduation. For-profit schools have options for gaining credits for life and work experience and ways to help adult learners finish their degrees faster. There are accelerated programs, online classes, and hybrid courses (online plus a few on-campus meetings). The schools provide options for assessing life/work experience, testing out of classes or easy ways for military personnel to move their military classes and training into college credits.
Walmart recently selected American Public University, an online, for-profit university as their educational partner. APU was selected over other online schools, state universities and more prestigious schools because of the discounts, the ability to assess corporate credits, and the customer service promises. State schools and non-profit private schools are taking another look at their advertising, marketing, customer service and programs to see how they might compete in the future.