For-profit colleges are very direct about why you should consider attendance: A college degree brings you more money. “We’re committed to your success” says the University of Phoenix. “Advance your career” commands Capella University. Rasmussen College is even more specific: “Earn Your Degree To Achieve The Career You Want.”

Good luck with that. Here’s why many proprietary colleges might really be considered scams: Going there doesn’t lead people to make more money.

That’s the latest information from new paper by Patrick Denice, a doctoral student in sociology at the University of Washington. The report, “Does it pay to attend a for-profit college? Horizontal stratification in higher education,” demonstrates, among other things, that:

Those who graduated with associate degrees from for-profit colleges earned, on average, $425 per week, which was statistically indistinguishable from the $388 earned weekly by those who held only high-school diplomas.

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.

It’s worth pointing out that this is an average. Within that average there are obviously great differences in earnings. Some for-profits are better than others.

There’s reason to think that many people earn more as a result of attendance at for-profit colleges, specifically those that are recognized in the community and the industry for teaching specific technical skills (plumbing, hair dressing, automobile repair, etc.).

On the whole, however, the sector doesn’t seem to help much in terms of career advancement.

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