Just How Similar?
The American Association of Community Colleges recently released a brief titled, "Just How Similar? Community Colleges and the For-Profit Sector." The study focuses on the fundamental differences between community and for-profit colleges that makes it difficult to compare the two types of institutions according to the criteria that have been used recently. According to a press release on PR Newswire, while the post-secondary institutions may offer a number of common programs, that tends to be where the similarities end. These institutions serve a widely different population, which results in different outcomes and success rates overall.
- A higher ratio of minority students at community colleges. More than half of all Hispanic students and 40% of Black, Native American and Alaskan Native students were enrolled in community colleges in 2008, according to the study results posted at the American Association of Community Colleges website.
- A lower number of full-time students in community colleges. Only around 40% of community college students are enrolled full-time, compared with 90% of the students at for-profit colleges. These numbers also increase the graduation rates at for-profit colleges.
- A higher number of transfer students at community colleges. When transfers to other institutions are factored into the comparison, community colleges and for-profit institutions are much closer in terms of their completion rates than they are when simple graduation rates are considered.
- Students going for certificates or short-term programs at community colleges. Not every student who enrolls in community college is there to earn a two-year degree. Some students are seeking certification in their chosen field or simply want to get more training through community college classes. While these students affect the actual graduation rates at the colleges, they do not indicate failure by the institutions to fully educate students, as the initial numbers indicated.
- The oversight of the institutions. Community colleges are publicly governed by elected or appointed trustees. In contrast, for-profit institutions are owned by individuals, partnerships or collaboratives. Some are corporations that are publicly traded, meaning they are accountable to stock holders interested in making a profit rather than to the students attending the institution.
- The incidence of student loans. About 90% of students attending for-profit colleges take out student loans to pay their tuition, as opposed to just 10% of community college students. For-profit institutions also have the highest default rate on student loans.