Call it what you will—for Profit, private sector, proprietary—one sector of Higher Education has been largely defined by a number of statistics, including admissions, retention, graduation rates, and use of Title !V funding, to name a few. It is undoubtedly true that the for-profit segment has had its share of struggles. But to be fair, the entire sector has been painted with a broad brush that includes everything from dog grooming schools to regionally accredited universities. For that reason, the numbers can sometimes be misleading. And to be perfectly honest, public and private not for profit higher education also has had its share of embarrassment and scandal. Check The Chronicle of Higher every week.
But all that aside, there is another set of statistics that gets very little attention, one that helps to define the place of for profits in the larger context of higher education. Here are a few of the telling numbers.
Number of for profit institutions receiving state funding: 0
Number of for profit institutions claiming tax-exempt status: 0
Number of presidents of for-profit institutions forced out in sex scandals: 0
Number of presidents of for-profit institutions forced out for harassment: 0
Number of for profit institutions offering phantom courses to athletes: 0
Number of for profit institutions paying fired sports coaches $10M: 0
As we consider these numbers, and others, we need to keep in mind the very small percentage of higher education that for profits represent. And that the for-profit sector has for decades served a population of students shunned by the traditionals. Every piece of higher education has its issues. Each serves the public good each has a dark side. Only recently has the unsavory underside of the larger higher education community been exposed (see the issues above). I expect that more is to come.
As both society and higher ed struggle with a variety of issues, it becomes incumbent on all of us to consider which offenses most harm the fabric of our culture. The transgressions of the for-profit sector are now common public knowledge. Whether in the long run these transgressions pale in comparison to the larger higher ed community remains to be seen.