U.S. News & World Reports: Compare Nonprofit, For-Profit Online Degree Programs

By Jordan Friedman | Editor Feb. 13, 2017, at 9:30 a.m. 

To some students, a for-profit online degree program seems like a risky option.

"I've seen a lot of reports for a lot of years about how for-profit schools have pretty much based their incomes on the ability for students to get federal financial aid," says 30-year-old Matt Warner, a cybersecurity and information assurance master's student at the nonprofit, online Western Governors University.

Though he's personally hesitant about for-profits, he suggests prospective students focus more on factors such as cost and the degrees offered.

For California resident Carlos Ramirez, enrolling in an online doctoral program in health administration at the for-profit University of Phoenix was a no-brainer. Ramirez previously earned his bachelor's and master's at the school and was satisfied with its flexibility and student support.

Experts say in online education, a school's classification as a for-profit versus nonprofit tells prospective online students little about overall quality.

"I think it's less about the sector and more on how attentive the institution is to meeting the needs of students, to understanding best practices, to preparing their faculty for this robust learning experience," says Karen Pedersen, chief knowledge officer for the Online Learning Consortium, an organization aiming to improve online higher education.

For-profit institutions have faced criticism in recent years for questionable recruitment practices, low graduation rates and high student debt. Though employers today are becoming more receptive to accepting candidates with for-profit, online degrees, there's still a stigma around them, experts say.

"It’s a distinction that has gotten a lot of press over the last many years, and I’m not sure that it’s warranted," says Betty Vandenbosch, president of the for-profit Kaplan University, which delivers many degrees online.

When for-profit online degree programs started becoming more prevalent around 1999, they accepted almost anybody who applied, including those who weren't sufficiently prepared for college, says Kathleen Ives, OLC's CEO and executive director, who has served as faculty for both for-profits and nonprofits. That, she says, contributed to low graduation rates and high debt for those who dropped out.

That initial focus primarily on corporate profits "has tainted much of the for-profit sector. And not fairly, because the for-profit institutions are just as diverse as the nonprofit institutions," says David Schejbal, dean of continuing education, outreach and e-learning at the University of Wisconsin—Extension, which coordinates continuing education and online programs across 26 statewide campuses.

Things have begun to change at many for-profits, Pedersen says. Overall, quality of student services ranges in the sector, but many for-profits have started focusing more on student success in addition to attracting applicants.

Many for-profits, Ives says, now require undergraduate applicants to complete assessments to determine whether they are ready for online college. That's how undergraduate admissions works at the for-profit, online American Public University System for non-military students and those entering with few credits, says Karan Powell, the institution's president.

"We, over time, have made the decision that there are some demonstrations of college readiness that need to be evident," says Powell, and retention rates have improved as a result.

Still, in comparison with nonprofit online programs overall, admissions at for-profits are generally less selective, says Mia Ellis, assistant director of admission services at Pennsylvania State University—World Campus, who has also worked at for-profit schools. Still, she acknowledges that admission into many online programs is easier compared with on-campus offerings.

For-profit programs have been more likely than nonprofits to have rolling admissions and academic calendars that don't operate around the standard semester schedule, experts say – though that format is now gaining momentum among nonprofits.

Beyond structure, experts say for-profit online programs are more likely to have national rather than regional accreditation. Regional accreditation, which some major for-profits do have, is preferred among employers and other universities if a student transfers.

And when it comes to tuition and fees, for-profit programs charged full-time students an average of $16,000 for the 2016-2017 school year, according to data from the College Board. That's compared with $3,520 at two-year public colleges for full-time in-state students and $9,650 at four-year public colleges for in-staters, the report found. These data don't distinguish between online and on-ground programs.

Out-of-state tuition at public colleges and tuition at private universities, however, was higher than at for-profit schools in 2016-2017, according to the data.

Ultimately, a prospective online student's decision should involve thorough research about for-profit programs' accreditation, experts say. Students should also compare tuition, faculty and support services, which can all vary in strength.

Tami Smith, an online bachelor's student at Colorado State University—Global Campus, transferred out of a for-profit online bachelor's program mainly because she was dissatisfied with the academic support she received, she says. Her second time around, she read student reviews and found useful information online.

"I read the good reviews and the bad reviews, and just took my time to choose that right school," she says.

Inside Higher Educaiton: Cosmetology Group Sues Education Department

By: Ashley A. Smith

February 13, 2017

The American Association of Cosmetology Schools filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education Friday over its gainful employment rule. The organization, which represents about 750 institutions, is seeking relief from the regulations.

The organization argues that gainful employment undercounts cosmetology graduates' income because many self-employed workers rely on gratuities and are paid in cash. Many cosmetologists simply underreport their incomes, according to the organization.

"A provision that is supposed to protect our students, in fact, hurts them badly," said Adam Nelson, executive director of AACS, in a news release. "We are proud that our graduates, many of whom were the first in their families to attend any kind of post-high school education, are quite often joining the middle class, establishing themselves in new beauty businesses and raising families and supporting themselves at a very good income level over long-lasting careers."

Direct link to article: https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2017/02/13/cosmetology-group-sues-education-department

CECU: Career Education Addresses Shortage of Physical Therapy Assistants

February 3, 2017 - Washington, DC - This month the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 7.6 million Americans are unemployed, while at the same time 5.5 million jobs remain unfilled in America. This gap in labor exists because employers demand job-ready employees and millions of prospective employees are simply not able to bridge the skills gap without appropriate career education and training. One such career is the expected shortage of physical therapist assistants where 51,400 additional professionals are needed by 2024. 
This is projected to be a very high-growth profession: the BLS estimates a much faster than average growth rate of 40% over the next decade. This is likely due in large part to health concerns affecting the aging population of baby-boomers, reports BLS. The larger population as well is expected to seek out physical therapy services, both due to activity-related injuries and diseases such as obesity, a disease affecting 36.5% of U.S. adults according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Career Education Colleges and Universities (CECU)’s Campaign to Create 5 Million Career Professionals, supported by research from the U.S. Department of Education’s IPEDS database, shows the impact postsecondary career education colleges and universities have in providing trained physical therapist assistants. From 2011-2015, the sector graduated 7,283 students with the academic credentials needed for a career as a physical therapist assistant, and is projected to produce more than 25,000 graduates in the next decade – approximately one-half of those needed.

Physical therapist assistants work with patients under the direction of a physical therapist. Physical therapist assistants administer various treatments and exercises to help alleviate patients’ symptoms, and report on the progress of patients to the physical therapist.  BLS shows a high median annual salary of about $55,000 for physical therapist assistants, higher than both the median salary for healthcare support occupations and the median salary for all occupations.

“Physical therapist assistants are a crucial part of delivering quality care to patients and helping both adults and children recover from injuries or disease,” said Stephen South, president of South College. “By studying to become a physical therapist assistant, students are preparing for a rewarding career working to improve people's lives.”

“The projections show that this is an excellent time to prepare for and enter the field of physical therapy. Professionals in this field earn good wages and have stable jobs,” said Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of CECU. “Our institutions provide well-trained professionals to fill the rapidly increasing demand.”

About Shortage of Skills
Each month CECU will profile America’s “Shortage of Skills” (SOS) in one key industry. We will examine industries that are critical to America’s economic advancement and explain how a well-educated and well-trained workforce can address these issues. See previous SOS releases here.

About Career Education Colleges and Universities (CECU)
Career Education Colleges and Universities (CECU) is a membership organization of accredited institutions of higher education that provide postsecondary education with a career focus. CECU’s work supports thousands of campuses that education millions of students.  

Inside Higher Ed: 200 Colleges to Appeal Gainful Employment Ratings

February 1, 2017
More than 200 colleges have given the U.S. Department of Education notice that they will appeal gainful employment ratings that found their programs to be failing or close to failing. The colleges filed a required notice of intent to appeal within 14 days of the release of ratings for 536 individual programs, according to data posted by the Office of Federal Student Aid Monday.

Institutions appearing on the list include Vatterott College, Kaplan University and Full Sail University.

Ratings released by the department last month showed that nearly a tenth of vocational programs evaluated -- mostly at for-profit institutions -- failed to meet new criteria measuring whether graduates were able to repay their student loan debt. That puts those programs at risk of being cut off from access to Title IV federal aid.

The gainful employment rule was heavily criticized by Republicans in Congress, and GOP leaders have listed it among a number of Obama administration regulations they plan to eliminate or scale back.

Direct link to article: https://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2017/02/01/200-colleges-appeal-gainful-employment-ratings