For-profit colleges have begun to struggle, with a flawed business model and enrollment rates that are clearly moving in the wrong direction.

In a piece in the new print edition of the Washington Monthly, however, John Gravois reports on an online non-profit school, targeting the same kind of students, which is showing how this model of education can be done correctly.

The editors’ summary of the cover story helps set the stage for an interesting article:

For-profit colleges were supposed to be the answer for adult students looking for a convenient way to earn a career-enhancing degree. But these schools have turned out to be better at foisting unpayable debt burdens on their students than providing them with marketable credentials.

Now, a school with an altogether different model of online education is threatening to eat the for-profits’ lunch. Western Governors University, a nonprofit institution founded by state governors, caters to the same adult learners that for-profit colleges target. But while the for-profits’ enrollments are plummeting in the face of relatively mild new federal consumer protection rules, Western Governors is growing by 30 percent a year, reports John Gravois in the latest Washington Monthly. The school is succeeding by offering its students “a college degree that is of greater demonstrable value than what its for-profit competitors offer … for about a third the price, in half the time.”

Read “The School For-profits Should Fear” here.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.