One not uncommon article of faith is that the for-profit private sector can always do things better and cheaper than the public sector. This same faith based approach has been applied by some to education, however the evidence shows that the for-profit schools have consistently been worse and more expensive than public colleges and universities. These schools have also fared poorly in comparison with the traditional private institutions.
While it might be tempting for some to launch an ad hominem attack against me on the grounds that I teach at a public university, such an attack would have no logical merit. While my position might conceivably bias me, the fact is that the for-profit schools are no threat to my employment. My main concern is not with the fact that they are for-profit (I am fine with making money-after all, I go to work and sell my books to get money and the more the better). Rather, what concerns me is the fact that they cost so much more than public and private schools and have consistently done a poor job in terms of education and job placement. That is, I am criticizing them because they are generally doing a bad job at being colleges. They are, however, generally making money for the shareholders-at the expense of the students and the tax-payers.
Everest College, which was located in Milwaukee before it closed, provides another example of the unfortunate reality of many for-profit colleges. While the college was strongly opposed, it opened for business in October 2010 and then its parent company, Corinthian, said it was closing the school down. The school had a rather dismal record, which helps explain it being shut down.
First, about half of the students dropped out. Second, the school had placed only 25% of its graduates into jobs. In comparison, the Wisconsin Technical College System has a 88% job placement rate, thus providing yet another example of how the public college system is still superior to the for-profit schools in regards to education. Private colleges also do quite well in placement-perhaps because they are educational institutions rather than for-profit money making systems.
One common claim is that the for-profit sector can deliver better services at lower prices. As has been noted, the for-profit schools have a rather poor track record in terms of the quality of services. In terms of cost, Everest was generally even more expensive than usual (for-profits typically charge an average of four times as much as public community colleges). For example, the Milwaukee Area Technical College tuition for a dental assistant is $2,102 wile Everest tuition was $15,803. A paralegal would pay $10,216 at MATC while paying $33,600 at Everest. a medical assistant would pay $4.335 at MATC and $18,841 at Everest. The medical administrative assistant programs had the closest tuition costs: MATC charged $11,145 while Everest charged $15,803.
Charging more for inferior results is certainly not anything to praise.
Given the importance of having a degree in getting a job (which can be considered a problem) and the value of education, I am certainly for expanding the available education options. I would certainly like to see high quality education being offered at affordable prices and I think that the private sector could have an important role to play here (I certainly would not mind being paid like a corporate executive). Unfortunately, the current for-profit system delivers far less at a much higher cost than the public and private education systems. As such, it would simply be a bad business decision for a student to chose the typical for-profit school over a public or traditional private institution.