All Colleges are Not Created Equal: For-Profit vs. Non-Profit Schools

Posted by IPFW Admissions Team on 1/23/15 11:00 AM

unbalanced scale

For some high school students, picking a college (they think) is a no-brainer: 

  • “I’ve been a (insert college name here) fan since I was a little kid!”
  • “My parents went there, so it’s a tradition.”
  • “They have one of the best programs for (insert major here).”

That’s cool for those people, but for the vast majority of students it’s just not that simple. What if you’re a first-generation student whose parents never went to college? It can feel overwhelming, and not just for you but your parents, too. They want to help you make the best decision you can.

Students and their parents used to start the search by talking to a high school guidance counselor. But nowadays, the Web is most likely providing most of the guidance. But be careful—the info on some schools you find through Google searches may be misleading, especially when it comes to understanding the difference between for-profit vs. non-profit schools.

At first glance, you probably can’t even tell whether a school is for-profit. So what’s the big deal anyway?


The Difference Between For-Profit and Non-Profit Schools 

For-profit schools are owned and operated by private corporations. Just like brands you’ve heard of—Apple and Coca Cola, for example—their first priority is to make money, which is why it costs more money to attend one. 

For-profit schools offer flexible class schedules and online programs for students with full-time jobs and/or families to take care of. Most offer two-year associate degrees and certificate programs, but they rarely offer general education and liberal arts programs, so their students can’t move on to more advanced degrees like at a community college. One of the biggest differences is lack of accreditation, which means that your credits from a regionally accredited college will usually not transfer; so it limits your ability to advance your studies.  

Non-profit colleges and universities are publicly owned and directed by a board of trustees just like other non-profits, such as The Humane Society or the Girl Scouts. Because they are publicly owned, non-profit schools get federal and state funding to operate. Any leftover funds or monies raised through fundraising campaigns have to be used to further the organization’s goals, rather than adding to the salaries of top-level management. That’s part of the reason why non-profit schools are less expensive to attend than for-profit schools. 

Non-profit schools offer a broad range of degree programs, including certificate, two-year associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate programs. Non-profit schools also have flexible schedules and online course offerings to meet the needs of students with full-time jobs and families to take care of. 


Why You Should Steer Clear of For-Profits

For-profit schools have undergone so much media scrutiny in recent years that several of them have actually changed their statuses to non-profit.

And this is probably why:

They’re (generally) more expensive 

Most grads said it wasn’t worth it

You’re more likely to default on your loan 

On average, students who attend a for-profit school end up defaulting on their student loans.

You will (probably) make less money

Those who graduate from a for-profit school will likely make less than non-profit grads.

So remember, next time you Google a college or university, do your research. Look past the academic offerings and the smiling student pictures and make sure you understand the school’s governance and motivations. Is their top priority their students or their shareholders? It can make a big difference in the outcome of your investment. And when that investment is your future, it matters.


Next Steps: Download the IPFW Viewbook

As Indiana’s only Multisystem Metropolitan University, IPFW combines the global prestige of two prominent institutions—Indiana University and Purdue University—our beautiful nearly 700-acre campus, all at an affordable rate and right here in Fort Wayne.

We offer a variety of opportunities with more than 200 academic programs, tons of scholarship and financial aid options, and an incredible student experience with luxury housing options, 14 NCAA Division I athletics programs, and more than 120 student organizations—and so much more.Learn What It Means to Ba a Mastodon: Download the IPFW Viewbook


Photo Credit to Julia Manerova; Flickr

Topics: Choosing a College





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