A new study indicates that high school graduates and those with associate degrees from for-profit schools end up earning essentially the same amount. And the figure is considerably below what is earned by graduates of public community colleges.
The study, "Does it Pay to Attend a For-Profit College? Horizontal Stratification in Higher Education," by Patrick A. Denice, was presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association this past weekend in San Francisco, according to an article by Dan Berrett in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The results stood up even when the researcher took into account that for-profits enroll more students from at-risk populations and lower income than other types of institutions. The study will probably raise eyebrows with policy makers, since for-profits are much more expensive to students than community colleges. Plus, many students are on financial aid in the form of grants and loans.
Here is a key passage from the article:
The wages of graduates of for-profit colleges' associate-degree programs were more than 20 percent lower than the wages of those who attended two-year programs at public colleges, Mr. Denice found. The differences were stark, even though he accounted for the fact that for-profit colleges tend to enroll higher numbers of academically unprepared students than nonprofit institutions do.
Mr. Denice attributed the differing outcomes, in part, to the signals that for-profit colleges on graduates' résumés send to future employers.
Educational attainment is thought to give employers an indication of a job candidate's potential, knowledge, and motivation. Colleges, Mr. Denice wrote, serve as a filter at two points: when they select students to attend and when they decide whether to graduate them.
For-profit colleges' lax admission criteria cancel out the first of these two filters, Mr. Denice said. While community colleges also offer open admissions, he added, they enjoy a different academic reputation from for-profit institutions.
"A credential from a for-profit college delivers a less-credible signal than the same credential earned at a public or private nonprofit college," Mr. Denice wrote.