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Learning From The Enemy: Educational Methods Of Private, For Profit Colleges

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.874.1 - 11.874.9



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Paper Authors


Phillip Wankat Purdue University

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Phil Wankat is the Clifton L. Lovell Distinguished Professor in Chemical Engineering and Engineering Education at Purdue University. He earned his BSChE from Purdue, his Ph.D. from Princeton University and an MSED from Purdue University. His technical research is in separation processes and he is interested in improving teaching and learning in engineering education.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Learning From “The Enemy:” Educational Methods of Private, For-Profit Colleges

Abstract Private, for-profit schools represent the fastest growing segment of higher education. These schools have focused on the education of adults and have developed student services that increase enrollment and graduation of students from underrepresented groups. They have also developed educational methods that are effective with their students and result in student learning. Their training programs for new faculty are often exemplary although faculty have significantly less power than at traditional universities. The missions of for-profit and traditional universities are different, but traditional universities can learn from the successes of for-profit schools in training faculty and educating students.

Introduction Private, for-profit colleges have been very successful in the US and are rapidly growing, as approximately 2500 for-profit institutions provide post-secondary education to approximately 1.6 million students.1 Most of these are trade schools that do not compete directly with traditional colleges and universities and do not have regional accreditation; however, the largest private for-profit schools such as the University of Phoenix, Strayer and DeVry University compete with traditional schools and have regional accreditation.2-4 Only for- profit schools with regional accreditation will be discussed in this paper. Much of the success of for-profit institutions has been due to a focus on working adults, now the largest group of college students1, 2, 4, 5 Adults are also a market segment that traditional universities have not served well. For-profit colleges have developed customer service procedures, educational methods, and policies that help them graduate working adults quickly. They claim, and companies paying many of the students’ bills and accreditation agencies agree, that their students learn. This paper examines some of their educational methods and discusses which ones might be adopted by non-profit schools. The major focus will be on the largest private university in the US, the University of Phoenix, which currently has more than 200,000 students and over 19,000 faculty6, and DeVry University, a private for-profit university heavily involved with engineering and information technology education with over 52,000 students7.

Customer Service First, successful for-profit schools pay particular attention to customer service.2-9 They direct staff to establish personal relationships with students. Staff are cross-trained so that one person can help students and potential students with a variety of registration, financial aid and advising concerns. Special care is given to ensure that students obtain the maximum amount of government financial aid that is available. For example, more than 70 % of DeVry University students receive some form of government aid,4 and 66% of the income on a cash accounting basis of ITT Educational Services, Inc. was from Federal Government financial aid programs.10 Students can often enroll, register, and fill out federal financial aid forms working with a single person. This “one-stop shopping” is one of the organizational

Wankat, P. (2006, June), Learning From The Enemy: Educational Methods Of Private, For Profit Colleges Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--36

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