For-Profit Colleges Fill the Community College Void

For-Profit Colleges Fill the Community College Void
For-profit colleges are now becoming an alternative for community college students who are stuck on waiting lists or who hope to earn bachelor's degrees. Learn more about the opportunities and articulation agreements between for-profit colleges and community colleges.

As community colleges struggle with over-crowding and a lack of funding, for-profit colleges are offering to help, giving community college students the opportunity to earn transferable credits at low tuition rates.

Kaplan’s Online Courses Can Count Towards Community College Degrees

The Wall Street Journal reports that Kaplan University, a for-profit college owned by the Washington Post Co., is offering California community college students the option of taking courses at its online schools. These credits can be applied towards a degree at their home campuses.

In addition, the newly created Community College Connections program will allow students to take Kaplan’s online courses at a 42% discount, which will make the cost of courses similar to that of a community college course.

Kaplan will also allow graduates of California’s community colleges to transfer to one of its degree programs and complete their bachelor’s degrees at a 10% discount, according to the Wall Street Journal.

This video gives an overview of Kaplan education.

Community College Credits Count Towards B.A. Degrees at Bridgepoint

Meanwhile, Ashford University, which is operated by Bridgepoint Education Inc., is signing articulation agreements with a number of community colleges and public universities and colleges. The articulation agreements usually outline that students transferring from the community college or public university may transfer up to 90 credits towards earning their degrees from Ashford University.

A press release issued by Bridgepoint indicates that Ashford University has signed 38 such articulation agreements and formed alliances with 138 community colleges and four-year universities.

Bridgepoint Education, Inc. offers its courses through two institutions – Ashford University and the University of the Rockies. Iowa’s Quad-City Times reports that about 99% of its students take classes exclusively online, and enrollment at Bridgepoint’s two universities grew 70% between the end of 2008 and the end of 2009.

Why For-Profit Universities Enter Into Articulation Agreements

For-Profit Schools Gain Legitimacy and Exposure

For-profit universities benefit from entering into these credit-transfer articulation agreements, the Wall Street Journal explains, because a partnership with an established community college or state university can “help legitimize a for-profit school.” The WSJ also notes that for-profit universities gain a great deal of exposure through these partnerships.

Chance to Increase Enrollment

In a time when community colleges are at maximum capacity, for-profit colleges see an opportunity to increase their student enrollment numbers. "While our focus is around degree enrollments, this is an opportunity to help California," Gregory Marino, president of Kaplan University Group, told the WSJ.

A Good Move for Community Colleges or a Dangerous One?

Concern about Quality Control

In a recent Denver Post article on a proposal brought before the Colorado legislature that would allow students to take general education courses at for-profit schools and transfer those credits to community colleges and state universities, Alan Lamborn, vice provost for undergraduate affairs at Colorado State University, voiced concern about the issue of quality control when it comes to for-profit colleges. A state college that accepts transfer credits from a for-profit school is "selling our brand to other people without our ability to control it," he told the Post.

Necessary Response to Current State of Public Education

However, in a time where colleges are staggering under huge financial burdens and overwhelming demand for a limited number of courses, new options such as alliances with for-profit colleges may well be necessary.

In December 2009, Michael J. Wilson, the director of the organization Americans for Democratic Action, told that he supports the use of for-profit colleges. "We don't believe we can use the same narrow bands of universities that we traditionally use, and we believe we need to use every arrow in our quiver," Wilson said.

Funding Questions

When publicly-funded community colleges and state universities start teaming with for-profit colleges, complex issues about funding can arise. MSNBC quotes Wilson as saying that for-profit schools “are not taking tax money to pay for themselves, but are paying back taxes,” which is a good fit for “the current fiscal system.”

However, some are concerned that for-profit colleges benefit unfairly from support in the form of federal education loans such as Pell Grants. MSNBC reports that in 2008-09, “24% of the government's record $18.3 billion Pell Grant program went to for-profit colleges.”

It remains to be seen whether working with for-profit colleges will help community colleges and state universities overcome their troubles. These agreements may seem to be a stop-gap measure that is necessitated by an education system in financial crisis mode. However, they may also signal an important turning point in the relationship between for-profit and nonprofit educational institutions and in the role for-profit colleges play in our country.

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