The Real For-Profit Question

A recent piece at CBS News, tied no doubt to the Education Department’s recent release of new rules about debt levels at for-profit schools, looks at something really interesting: actual professional success.

According to Armen Keteyian:

A CBS News investigation compared for-profit schools to public institutions like community colleges. We looked at how likely graduates are to pass their licensing exams, for jobs like nursing and veterinary technicians.

We surveyed nine exams in five states and in each, the results were the same: students at for-profit schools were less likely to pass the state licensing exam in their field than students who attended a public institution – even though they were paying, on average, about five times more in tuition.

This highlights the most important thing about America’s for-profit colleges: how well they actually prepare people for jobs.

For-profit colleges, after all, are vocational schools. They are career colleges. Their sole educational purpose is to prepare people for employment.

Now “nine exams in five states” is a little hazy and it would be interesting to know how much less likely students in for-profit schools were to pass relevant state licensing examinations, but this is a very exciting investigation.

So much journalistic work with regard to for-profit schools has so far had to do with debt levels and legal violations.

This information significant but the licensing statistics here are absolutely critical. Are people who attend for-profit schools better off in their careers than people who don’t receive further educational training? Are they better off in their careers than people who attend comparable vocational training at traditional community colleges? This is the most important thing to address.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer