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.
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