A Positive Light on Virginia’s For-Profit Colleges

Graphic credit: Demographics and Workforce Blog

Michele Claibourn with the Weldon Cooper Demographics & Workforce Blog took a look at the same data that I did in my previous post and made a very interesting comparison, as seen in the image at left.

The top graphic compares the four- and six-year graduation rates of Virginia’s public colleges, private colleges and for-profit colleges. By this measure, the performance of the for-profit colleges — oft criticized for their high tuitions and high default rates on student loans — is abysmal. Of course, different types of students attend different institutions. As Claibourn writes, “Increasingly, students go to college part time, transfer between institutions, or return to college as adults – this is particularly true for students at for-profit colleges. Folks in these college trajectories aren’t captured by the official graduation rate (defined by the Department of Education).”

By a different metric — spending per degree awarded — the for-profit colleges kick butt, as seen in the lower graphic. According to Claibourn’s numbers (which she extracted from the searchable “College Completion” database), for-profit institutions spend only half as much per graduate as traditional institutions of higher learning in Virginia.

By the way, if you are a policy wonk as opposed to a political junky, you should check out the Demographics & Workforce blog. It’s new, but it’s off to a very good start.


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