For-Profit vs. Nonprofit Online Schools

Are Traditional Schools Really Better?

online degree student

Want to know one big difference between Kaplan University and the University of Washington, other than location? One is a for-profit university, while the other is nonprofit. What’s the difference, and why does it matter?

Nonprofit universities are generally traditional 4-year educational institutions (like the University of Washington), while for-profit schools are career, vocational and technology-focused institutions (such as Kaplan University). Unlike nonprofit universities, for-profit universities are run like a business by revenue-seeking companies, and are usually backed by investors.

Proponents of for-profit universities assert that these schools are making education—and the success education brings—more accessible to all types of people by creating multiple campus branches and offering online degree programs. They are re-defining who can be a student by greatly expanding educational opportunities.

On the other hand, critics argue that for-profit universities ignore the fundamental purpose of an educational institution, which is to educate its students, not turn a profit. These critics worry that knowledge is compromised when learning institutions become primarily moneymaking institutions.

Benefits of Attending a For-Profit School

Currently the number of for-profit schools is miniscule when compared with nonprofit institutions. However, their number is growing, and as thousands of students can attest, there are benefits to attending a for-profit school. Because these schools follow a business model, they see their students as customers and can be more responsive to meeting students’ needs. As they strive to attract new students and be market-competitive, for-profit schools may be pushed to innovate and improve at a faster rate than traditional schools.

In addition, the learning environment is often more flexible for students. For example, many for-profit schools offer degree programs through a variety of campuses across the nation, as well as online degree programs that allow students to work at their own pace and in their own environment, day or night. An online university makes it easy for students to earn their degree without having to disrupt their life or career by moving to a new location.

For-Profit Online Programs Compared to Nonprofit Programs

If you’re worried that a degree earned from a for-profit college will be worth less than a “traditional” degree earned at a 4-year university, don’t be. As long as you choose a program that is regionally or nationally accredited, the degree you earn is legitimate.

That said, it is important to know the strengths of the school you choose to attend. The majority of for-profit schools offer vocational and technical programs, and it is through these programs that they excel. Employers happily accept technical and vocational certificates or degrees from accredited for-profit universities. In fact, many schools are eager to prove their legitimacy through statistics.

Accreditation is Important

One way to ensure that the education you receive from an online college or other for-profit institution is top-notch is to check the school’s accreditation. Accreditation is a measurement the U.S .Department of Education (DOE) uses to ensure that schools meet rigorous and up-to-date standards of education and professionalism.

To become nationally or regionally accredited, school curriculums must pass muster with a DOE-approved accreditation board such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Once a school becomes accredited, it is subject to regular board reviews, and the school must prove that it is continuing to evolve to meet students’ needs and DOE standards. All schools, both for-profit and nonprofit, must be regionally or nationally accredited in order to be considered legitimate institutions of higher learning. So while curriculums differ from school to school, accreditation guarantees that your tuition is well spent and your education is worth your time and effort.

Read more about online school accreditation.