What You Need To Know About For-Profit Universities Before You Enroll

May 6, 2013  |  

The University System of Georgia put a program in place, the African-American Male Initiative, 10 years ago and now, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, enrollment from black men is up 80 percent. The program was held up at a recent meeting of the American Council on Education as an example of something that has worked to get Black men in college.

Another area of higher education where the number of Black men is on the right is for-profit universities. An article published last summer on The Root says The University of Phoenix had the largest population of Black male students in the United States. I was surprised but that quickly gave way to apprehension as I began to wonder how many African Americans attended for-profit universities without fully knowing what they are and how they operate. Then, I stopped and thought, “Do I really know how for-profit universities operate?”

College education has become almost expected for any kind of success (which could be a problem in an of itself) but unfortunately, college counseling can be ineffective or non-existent, especially in the African-American community. It’s important to recognize that not all college educations are created equal.

For-profit education has existed in this country for over a century mostly for K-12 students. However, as the importance of a college degree rose in the job market, so did the market for more flexible post-secondary education options. For-profit universities generally target non-traditional students; those that are older, working, and a very large amount of low-income and first-generation college students, or in a position where a traditional four-year college experience is either impractical or undesirable. For this, for-profit universities should be applauded. They serve students that are traditionally ignored and oftentimes offer a second chance to people from marginalized and troubled backgrounds.

Unfortunately, the model several of these universities use is troubling at best and criminal at worst. Unlike public and private universities the majority of the money made at for-profit universities isn’t invested back into the school. When focusing on the bottom line, counseling professionals are the first people cut. What you end up with is a school of marginalized students, paying exorbitant prices, for an education they will more than likely never complete.

According to The Washington Post, about 16 percent of undergraduate students graduate from The University of Phoenix in six years. The American average is 55.5%.  More than half of the students enrolled at for-profit universities make less than $40,000 a year and support one or more family members. These populations are less likely to graduate on time no matter what school they attend. So let’s focus on African Americans. Thirty-nine percent of African Americans attending public and private universities, on average, graduate within six years. That is more than double the rate for for-profit universities.

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