Lessons to Be Learned from For-Profit Educators?

Are for-profit colleges and universities being unfairly attacked? Or, are they the only education avenue for many poor students?

Despite the high-profile debate over the merits of for-profits, little is known about how these institutions differ from traditional schools. To remedy this, in "Crossing to the Dark Side? An Interview-Based Comparison of Traditional and For-Profit Higher Education," education expert Ben Wildavsky of the Kauffman Foundation interviews leaders from both sectors to take a closer look at the differences.

He finds that:

 

  • NEWER & NIMBLE: Because for-profits are newer institutions, they can be more nimble and entrepreneurial, allowing them to create new academic programs, adjust staffing levels and change curricula based on demands or data.
  • FOCUS ON TEACHING: For-profits often hire and evaluate their faculty based on their ability to teach, rather than research.

  • LESSONS FOR ALL?: Despite legitimate concerns over the quality of for-profits institutions, useful lessons can be drawn from their ability to interpret student data quickly, respond to employer and market demands, and reach a high number of nontraditional and at-risk students.

"Drawing on interviews with prominent individuals who have worked for both types of organizations, Wildavsky helps to illuminate the differences between these two types of providers; he also underscores some promising for-profit practices when it comes to business models, performance evaluations, data collection, and scalability," notes AEI director of education policy studies Frederick M. Hess.

For more information about the Private Enterprise in American Education project, please contact Jenna Schuette Talbot at jenna.talbot@aei.org or or visit http://www.aei.org/policy/education/private-enterprise/

AEI's in-house ReadyCam TV studio may be booked by calling VideoLink at 617.340.4300. To reserve AEI's ISDN facilities for radio interviews or for other media inquiries, please e-mail Jesse Blumenthal at jesse@aei.org (202.862.4870).

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