Dr. Su Jin Jez, Core Faculty member of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership, will present her research at the upcoming 2015 conference of Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP) in Washington DC.
Her session will focus on for-profit higher education. While for-profit colleges and universities have been around since the 18th century, research and policy interest in them ebbs and flows and is almost always significantly less their non-profit and public counterparts. Over the past decade, interest in the for-profit sector has grown rapidly, likely due to their skyrocketing enrollment through the Great Recession, increasing use of federal financial aid dollars, and growing student default rates. At their recent peak, for-profit colleges and universities enrolled approximately 13% of all postsecondary students in the U.S. These enrollments differ in important ways from non-profit and public enrollments. For-profit students are more likely to be low income, minority, in career-focused fields, and seeking sub-baccalaureate awards. For-profit institutions have been distinct from non-profit and public institutions in other ways, too. They pushed less conventional educational strategies, such as online education and mid-year enrollment, which they claimed allowed them to reach students ignored by the traditional programs offered by non-profit and public institutions. Many heralded for-profit colleges for changing the conversation and challenging higher educational norms, which was rewarded with rapidly enrollment growth and rising profits.
However, the landscape has changed for for-profit higher education over the last four years. For-profit institutions have gone from double-digit increases in enrollment, to now three years of decline; from emphasis on their capacity for disruptive innovation to lawsuits by attorneys general; and from record-breaking profits to the collapse of one of the biggest for-profit providers (Corinthian) and the closure of many smaller campuses around the country. Given this clear and abrupt turn-around, this session seeks to begin a conversation that addresses three central questions that promote sharing knowledge about new and important developments in for-profit policy. We ask and answer first, “why did it happen?” Second “How bad is it (or how bad are they)?” And third “What’s next for the for-profit sector?”
The session will begin with each panelist providing brief opening remarks that begin the conversation on these three central questions.
- Why did it happen?
- Kevin Kinser will discuss the factors that lead to this sudden change, and point out why the trajectory for-profits were on was unsustainable.
- How bad is it? How bad are they?
- Su Jin Jez will discuss the outcomes of students who attend for-profits, the variation of these outcomes across the for-profit sector, and how a typology or classification of for-profits can assist policy in targeting institutions more appropriately.
- Robert Shireman will discuss structures and incentives that may help to explain differences in behaviors and outcomes by sector.
- What’s next for the for-profit sector?
- Constance Iloh will discuss will discuss what these changes mean for college access and success looking forward, particularly in light of student choice and institutional classifications.
Next, the session chair, Soung Bae, will facilitate a discussion between panelists that leads to a more nuanced understanding of the complexities of for-profit policy in this new era. The session will conclude with audience questions and answers.
Through this structure, we will share knowledge but also hope to engage the audience in a lively conversation on higher education policy focused on for-profit colleges and universities. We will discuss key topics to understanding new and important developments about for-profit policy, including various regulations (such as gainful employment), outcomes of for-profit students (labor market, student loan defaults, graduation rates), recent changes in their reach (closing of colleges, enrollment declines), and the politics of for-profit colleges and universities (who governs them, partisan divide in how they are seen). Session attendees will develop a deeper understanding of the context of for-profits and their policy future.
Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, Director of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership, also served on the conference committee for this year’s AEFP conference.