The public colleges in Texas are in trouble. With calls for greater “productivity” come the public concern that state schools are wasting public money, coddling do-nothing professors, inappropriately rewarding highly paid academic administrators, and not graduating enough students.

This sounds like a crisis for education, and it is, but it’s also, oddly, an opportunity to make some money. According to an article by Reeve Hamilton in the Texas Tribune:

For-profit institutions see opportunities in the declining state support for public institutions, disappointing graduation rates, and questions about productivity and efficiency.

“They’re going to play an essential part in meeting the workforce needs of the future,” Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business, recently told The Texas Tribune. “We can’t meet our goals without them.”

Well, Texas certainly can’t meet its higher education goals without for profit colleges if it isn’t willing to devote significant state resources to public colleges.

Part of the reason for-profits look so attractive is that Texas wants to increase the number of older adults in the state with college degrees. Such people often gravitate toward for-profit schools.

They tend not to graduate, however. Nationally, About 60 percent of enrolled students drop out in a year of starting a program. Only about 20 percent of people who enroll in for-profit schools ever earn a degree or certificate.

Such schools are also more expensive. According to the article:

Joe Fisher, president of for-profit Hallmark College, acknowledged that a student could pay $15,000 more to get a degree from his institution than nearby University of Texas at San Antonio. But at the public university, he said, more total money would be spent from a variety of sources to get that student to graduation. “It’s very costly to deliver an education,” he said. “But we’re far more efficient than the state. So, that’s true cost.”

Okay, sure, but the students have to pay that additional money. Are students better off because off because their tuition reflects “true cost”?

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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