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For-profit colleges innovate to survive

For-profit colleges have seen “enrollments drop significantly amid an economic recovery (which typically hurts the enrollment of career-focused colleges), intensive regulatory scrutiny from the Obama administration and declining public confidence,” reports Inside Higher Ed.

Badly shaken, the for-profit colleges are innovating to survive, reports writes Hechinger’s Jon Marcus, who visited the annual meeting of Career Education Colleges and Universities, known as C-Q.

Career colleges’ more than quadrupled enrollment between 2000 and 2010, he notes, then saw enrollment nearly halved by 2018.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos plans to limit loan forgiveness and repeal the gainful-employment rule, which holds career colleges  accountable for students’ inability to earn enough to repay federal loans.

However, for-profit colleges still face “stepped-up competition from public community colleges,” tougher accreditors and more aggressive state regulators, writes Marcus.

At C-Q, career college administrators talked about how to improve student outcomes and repair the industry’s reputation.

What can be done to bump up student persistence and graduation rates? How can job placement be independently verified? How can consumer perceptions and the schools’ reputations be altered? How can for-profits get students to not only enroll, but succeed?

To prove job-placement rates are real, colleges such as the Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) now hire third-party contractors to verify that graduates are employed. “Only job placements in the field for which the student was trained count,” writes Marcus. “A gig as a barista at Starbucks doesn’t count.”

ob-placement rates went down when Aviation Institute of Maintenance began hiring an independent contractor to audit employment. Now placement rates are back up.

“If [public and nonprofit institutions] had to do what we do for our accreditation, they would be closing left and right,” Joel English, vice president of operations for AIM, which trains airplane mechanics, told Marcus.

For-profit colleges have cut down on failure rates by allowing (sometimes requiring) students to take a free orientation, trial course or even a free credit-bearing course before they file for a student loan.

For-profit colleges were the first to target adult students, writes Marcus. “They pioneered many of the tech-driven trends upending higher education, from distance learning to data-focused metrics of success.”

Several of the major innovations brought forth by the for-profits, such as allowing students to start and pause their studies anytime they choose and awarding credit for professional experience, have taken root at traditional public and nonprofit colleges and universities. Some public and nonprofit colleges and universities have started collaborating with for-profits to develop new techniques, such as adaptive learning tools.

. . . for-profits now are experimenting with nanodegrees (Udacity), guarantees to students and employers (Triangle Tech Group, coding boot camps), and modular sequential courses (several vocational institutions).

Higher education is heading for a shake-out. Costs are too high, economic returns too chancy. I suspect the for-profit sector will continue to shrink, but the second- and third-tier private non-profit colleges are in trouble too.

This post first appeared on Joanne Jacobs — Thinking And Linking By Joanne Jacobs, please read the originial post: here

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For-profit colleges innovate to survive


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