What Is a For-Profit College?

Kelly Hernandez
College textbooks stacked upon each other with $100 bills sticking out of the books.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

You may be reviewing the reasons to attend college if you want to advance your career, change industries, or beef up the educational section of your resume. In addition to choosing the type of degree you want to earn, you’ll also need to figure out what subject to major in and what type of school to attend.

There are several types of colleges that offer different schedules, programs, and tuition fees. Whether you choose to attend a private university, public institution, trade school, nonprofit or for-profit college depends on the job you plan to pursue after getting your education. Learning more about what to expect from a for-profit college, including financial aid options, will help you decide where you want to pursue your degree.

What Is a For-Profit College?

One of the main differences between a for-profit college and nonprofit college is who’s in charge of the school. A nonprofit private or public college is run by a board of directors and any profit earned through student tuition is reinvested into the college.

A for-profit college is run by a group of shareholders who are in charge of making decisions on the future of the college. Profit earned by these colleges may be used to pay investors or for other non-educational purposes that aren’t necessarily focused on the betterment of the school. Profits are generally used for marketing and advertising efforts or recruitment.

For-profit colleges are often located in metro areas and usually have smaller capacities for attendance than most nonprofit institutions. Most for-profit colleges focus on offering certificates and trade programs and rarely provide the opportunity to earn degrees. With so many differences between for-profit and nonprofit colleges, it’s important to review programs that are offered, the reputation of the college, and the tuition costs before deciding on the institution you plan to attend.

Cost of For-Profit College

For-profit colleges can choose what to charge students for tuition and fees. Tuition rates may vary between for-profit colleges based on the programs they offer, their location, and their accreditation.

There’s no one universal cost for all for-profit colleges so you must review tuition fees that are specific to your college to understand your financial obligations. Calculate your tuition, fees, and living expenses while attending school so you know how much to save for college or how much financial aid you’ll need to complete your education.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, full-time students attending four-year private for-profit colleges in the 2017 to 2018 school year paid an average of $16,200 in tuition. Books and supplies cost these students an additional $1,293 on average while room and board racked up about $10,550 when they lived on campus and $8,373 when they lived off campus.

For-Profit College Pros and Cons

Weighing the pros and cons of a for-profit college will help you to determine if this type of institution is right for you. For-profit colleges are easy to identify because they often spend large amounts of money on widespread marketing campaigns. However, a recognizable name doesn’t always mean a college is prestigious.

Some for-profit colleges are only regionally accredited or aren’t accredited at all. When you attend classes at a school that isn’t accredited, your credits can’t be transferred to another university. Non-accredited or only regionally accredited schools also aren’t eligible to participate in the federal financial aid program. Therefore, if you attend a non-accredited for-profit college, you’ll need to pay out of pocket, obtain scholarships, or apply for a private student loan to pay your expenses.

Since for-profit colleges strive to make money, tuition fees and educational expenses are usually higher than nonprofit schools. However, for-profit colleges are also known for their high student acceptance rates. Many for-profit institutions have open enrollment policies and will accept any student who applies to attend.

Most for-profit colleges offer extensive and convenient class schedules. Some provide rolling admissions schedules so students can begin pursuing their degrees at any time. For-profit schools are known for robust online class scheduling, making it easy for working adults to complete their education in a timely manner.

Is For-Profit College Right For You?

When deciding if a for-profit college is right for you, review the school’s:

  • Admission policy.
  • Programs, certifications, and degrees offered.
  • Schedule that applies to the program, certificate, or degree you’re pursuing.
  • Accreditation, if it’s important to you.
  • Tuition fees and educational expenses.
  • Financial aid options.

Compare the characteristics of your chosen for-profit college with those of nonprofit institutions to decide which option meets your educational and financial goals.

Can You Take Out Student Loans for a For-Profit College?

If the for-profit college you attend is nationally accredited, you may apply for a federal student loan to pay for tuition. After graduation, you’re responsible for paying back your loan plus the interest rate you agreed upon in the loan terms.

If you don’t qualify for a federal student loan, the loan you qualify for isn’t big enough, or the for-profit school you’re interested in isn’t accredited, you may need to shop around for a private loan. Since private loans are provided by individual lenders, each may have different eligibility guidelines and terms. Most lenders analyze your credit score and history, as well as your income to determine the loan terms they’re willing to offer you.

Ensure you understand and feel comfortable with the monthly payment you’ll be responsible for when you graduate before agreeing to a private or federal loan. You must pay off the loan balance in its entirety, whether you get a job quickly after graduation or it takes you years to gain employment.

When deciding whether you should attend a for-profit or nonprofit college, do the research as it relates to your career goals. Review the programs, schedule, accreditation, and tuition fees offered for each college before you make a decision about your educational future.

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