Admit it. You have a favorite. A favorite cola, favorite pet, favorite pizza topping.
It’s okay. Everyone does.
We can’t help it. We live in a comparison nation that loves to take sides.
But when it comes to the non-profit vs. for-profit college or university debate, which side are you on?
If you’re thinking of going back to school, the differences between the two are worth considering before you decide where you’ll finish your degree.
Both non-profit and for-profit schools confer degrees, but their focus and composition are quite different. Does this matter for you, the student?
Before you answer, read on for the surprising differences—and why they do matter.
Non-profit vs. for-profit: What’s the difference?
- Non-profits offer a learning environment designed first and foremost to serve students’ interests, helping them finish their college degrees and achieve career success.
- For-profits (sometimes called “proprietary schools”) are in business to make money for owners and shareholders by offering a service; in this case education.
Money or education: What’s the motivating factor?
- Non-profit institutions operate independently of an owner structure and are free to focus on providing quality education to students.
- For-profit institutions must provide adequate financial returns for their shareholders and stakeholders. Making a profit is an absolute priority.
Fees and costs: Which is more expensive?
- Non-profits are more affordable and typically competitive with public university tuition costs.
- For-profits are more expensive, says a recent Senate Report, which also called them “high-tuition schools.”
Governance: Who’s in charge?
- Non-profits, on the other hand, are led by an accomplished staff under the direction of a Board of Trustees with strong ties to the local community. Many also seek the input of community leaders through Advisory and Alumni Boards.
- For-profits have a number of constituents outside of students and faculty; namely shareholders. A 2012 U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Labor, Education and Pensions report indicates many for-profits are traded on a major stock exchange or owned by a private equity firm.
Startling Statistics About For-Profits
- On average, for-profits spent $3,017 per student on instructional costs (2009-10) vs. $15,321 at private non-profit colleges
- Average tuition cost at for-profit colleges is $31,000 after grants vs. $26,600 for non-profit colleges
- 28% of for-profit college students graduate with a four-year degree vs. 65% at private, non-profit colleges
- For-profit schools spent $8 per student on research vs. $5,887 per student at private, non-profits
So where do you weigh in? Let us know in the comments!