Looking at the business of higher education

Faculty at for-profit schools are more focused on real-world applications, says Lechuga.

Texas A&M professor Vicente Lechuga is a leading researcher of for-profit higher education in the U.S. In 2005, he conducted one of the first in-depth studies of these schools, interviewing more than 50 professors at for-profit institutions across the country. The study, “The Changing Landscape of the Academic Profession,” was re-released by Routledge in December.

What did you find when you interviewed faculty at for-profit schools?
Their background was not typically in higher education. They usually came from the workforce, so the more hierarchical, for-profit model was something they were more comfortable with. I found a lot more top-down control at these schools. That’s  different in traditional institutions, where faculty have a lot of autonomy to determine how and what they teach.

Were their goals different?
A common motivator I found was a desire to provide students with real- world knowledge, not just the theoretical aspects of what they were teaching.

What do for-profit schools tend to do well?
They’re very innovative in the way they deliver education. They were the first to offer online courses. When they first started doing that, many in traditional higher education sort of looked down on that idea. But now you’d be hard- pressed to find a traditional school without online courses.

What do they tend to do poorly?
There are major issues with for-profit graduation rates. There are, of course, many different types of these institutions. It’s a broad spectrum, but overall it’s problematic. Also, the loan default rates are much higher than at traditional institutions.



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