• November 20, 2014

Carnegie Classification Update Shows Boom in For-Profit and Professional Education

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching released an update on Tuesday of its Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education that it says shows a few shifts in the higher-education landscape: significant growth in the number of for-profit institutions, more institutions that offer professional degrees, and more traditional two-year colleges offering four-year degrees.

"The rise of the for-profit sector is not new, but with this classification update in particular, we see a pretty significant increase in that sector," said Chun-Mei Zhao, a senior scholar at the Carnegie Foundation who directs the Carnegie Classification project. "Those areas that are in high demand are the more professional and career-focused fields."

Since 2005, when the foundation last made major revisions in its classification system and updated its list, it has added 483 institutions, for a total of 4,633. Of those new institutions, 77 percent were private, for-profit entities, while 4 percent were public and 19 percent were private, nonprofit. (The vast majority of the new for-profit institutions were two-year colleges.)

Those numbers, however, might give an inflated sense of the growth in the for-profit sector. That's because the Carnegie Foundation lists individual campuses of the Art Institute, DeVry University, ITT Technical Institute, the University of Phoenix, and other multicampus for-profit entities as separate institutions.

In Carnegie's index of new institutions, campuses from those giants are listed alongside relatively little-known institutions, like the Won Institute of Graduate Studies, which specializes in alternative medicine, and postsecondary offshoots of well-established organizations, like the Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies.

Supply and Demand

Some observers of higher education were cool on the significance of the new numbers. Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of external relations at the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, said the Carnegie Classification update did not necessarily show a growth in demand for for-profit education.

"Sometimes things are supply driven, not demand driven," he said.

Richard H. Ekman, president of the Council of Independent Colleges, said it was no surprise that there were more for-profit institutions. "This is a worrisome thing," he said, because "many of these for-profit institutions are doing a bad job. But it is a fact that the enrollments have increased."

A breakdown of the numbers seems to reveal some notable growth in select fields. Of the new institutions, 6.2 percent were in the health professions, split between private for-profit and nonprofit. Nearly 6 percent were in business and management, almost entirely in the for-profit realm. And 5 percent were seminaries or Bible colleges, all of them not-for-profit.

The Carnegie Foundation noted that there had been a 17-percent increase in institutions that awarded more than 60 percent of their degrees in professional fields over the past five years, while there was a 5-percent drop in institutions that awarded more than 60 percent of their degrees in the liberal arts.

More two-year colleges were also offering four-year degrees, with growth since 2005 of 23 percent to 49 percent, depending on the type of institution. Mr. Ekman said that the increase in the number of institutions awarding of professional degrees and four-year degrees was also no surprise.

"A lot of bachelor's institutions are offering master's, and a small number of master's institutions are offering doctorates," he said. "There is an appetite for more education at higher levels, and that's not a bad thing."

Comments

1. mukundan - January 18, 2011 at 05:36 am

The observation "The Carnegie Foundation noted that there had been a 17-percent increase in institutions that awarded more than 60 percent of their degrees in professional fields over the past five years, while there was a 5-percent drop in institutions that awarded more than 60 percent of their degrees in the liberal arts" is not surprising. In these rough economic climate, everyone is looking for a job.

2. jffoster - January 18, 2011 at 08:59 am

Closes the report with this: ""A lot of bachelor's institutions are offering master's, and a small number of master's institutions are offering doctorates," he said. "There is an appetite for more education at higher levels, and that's not a bad thing."

Actually, it isn't necessarily a good thing. There is an "appetite" for more credentialing at higher levels, and with the economy rebounding in the jobs sector very slowly, and with liberal arts graduates finding themselves unemployable at a level and salary to which they would like to get accustomed, there is more appetite for staying in school. But I'm not sure there is really more appetite for more education at any, let alone higher, levels.

3. johnbarnes - January 18, 2011 at 07:00 pm

Ekman might also find it worrisome that some for-profit colleges are doing a good job. Structurally, the biggest problem facing for-profits is that they often improve a student's skills without working enough cultural change to allow a student to keep (and progress in) that better job that is the whole point of it. The feeble for-profits never notice this problem because they don't equip students to do the job, but the strong ones struggle with it constantly, and have a very strong incentive to find a solution to the problem of the student who knows how to do the job but not how to hold one, and could afford the lifestyle but can't live the life.

The better for-profits are working on this problem pretty hard, because it's critical to their survival. If they solve it, they will also have solved exactly the problem that the Chronicle just headlined: equipping students in critical thinking, speaking, and writing. And if they can do that, they will no longer be a poor-cousin alternative to traditional 2- and 4- year schools. They will be a genuine and appealing rival.

Can that problem be solved? I don't suppose anyone really knows yet. But the for-profits are pouring research and study into solving it, and the 2- and 4- year traditionals are allowing some brave mostly unfunded volunteers to take a whack. Who do you think is more likely to find that answer?

4. betterschools - January 19, 2011 at 02:00 pm

@johnbarnes,
I agree with your observations, stipulating a "traditional" student. However, no matter how you define the boundaries, you are speaking about no more than half of the population. Many for-profit programs are designed for and serve 35 year old managers or professional counselors returning for a PsyD. Many for-profit institutions limit their entire business to these sectors.
Your comments speak most directly to programs in which young members of the underclass earn the credentials to become a Physical Therapist Assistant, LPN, Dental Assistant, etc. For these broad categories, affective learning is as important or more important to professional than cognitive content. However, considerable evidence suggests that the same is true in the historically traditional programs. Major universities routinely turn out, for example, engineers who have no workplace skills. However, unlike the engineer, the Dental Assistant is likely to have had an intensive affective education, including preceptorships with employers.
You are correct, for-profits spend a lot of time, attention, and money on affective education. I do not agree that it is a recent phenomenon. I recently reviewed the curriculum of a 20 year old RN program where at least half of the outcomes were affective.

Add Your Comment

Commenting is closed.

subscribe today

Get the insight you need for success in academe.