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Better Links, Better Access, Higher Attainment

To further increase adult educational attainment levels, though—for-profit and not-for-profit institutions must come together on articulation agreements. This would support student transfers between institutions and put more adults on the road to a degree. Photo by Kris Mouser-Brown.

A few years ago, while working at a for-profit college, a very shy prospective student came to my office. She had just begun the enrollment process and her admissions advisor thought we should meet based on the information they shared. It turned out that this student became homeless after leaving a domestic abuse situation and she knew the only way to support herself would be advancing her education.

Her academic history was not stellar and the local university turned her away, but she blew us away with her entrance exam scores – some of the highest we had seen. But as we all know, to be successful, she needed to cover her basic needs first. Luckily, with a small campus like ours, we were able to easily connect her to local resources and help her fill out applications for part-time work and for the apartment complex across the street. Less than a year later, after a lot of one on one emotional support and networking to assistance groups, this student graduated with a job in the medical field.

There are countless stories like this one in the world of for-profit education, but you’ll rarely hear them. Instead, the poor reputation of a few bad eggs has turned the media and general public against them. The fact is that the majority of for-profit institutes are accredited, just by different accrediting bodies than most state schools. Even when you get past this knowledge, higher costs as compared to community colleges are also showcased as reasons for not enrolling at a for-profit institution, but the question we must ask is – what are you paying for?

Ultimately, most people enrolling in post-secondary education do so in hopes of finding a better job. The goal of most proprietary education is to help students enter the job market quickly and from there, decide if they need to further their education or simply rise in rank to reach their career goals.

In many ways, these schools prepare students for employment better than traditional schools by having stricter dress codes and attendance regulations, longer classes that simulate typical working hours, required internships, and more emphasis on resume writing and interview skills.

The major accrediting bodies for these career schools demand high graduation and placement rates to maintain accreditation status. In my experience, the for-profit school I worked for had a graduation rate over 17 times higher than the non-profit state school I came to work with later. At this point, we have to ask ourselves – in which statistics would you rather invest?

These are the choices students make everyday. And yet, when these for-profit graduates decide to return to school after working successfully in their fields, universities are denying them transfer credits. Not only does this set a student back into their next graduation date, but it also unnecessarily increases their overall tuition. Somehow this burden is laid upon the for-credit college, yet it is completely under the discretion of the universities to decide if prior education or work experience count towards credits.

How can the same institutions that argue against the high cost of for-profit education needlessly add more financial burden to students who have shown to be successful? We know that students who have graduated from one program are more likely to finish a second as compared to a first time student, so this can only be positive for everyone involved.

The answer to this problem is more articulation agreements. When colleges work together to build these arrangements, students can seamlessly transfer their transcripts from one program to another, allowing exponential growth in their educations and careers. Not everyone is ready to enter a 4-year college out of high school and for those who are first generation college students, smaller classes and shorter programs can be the building blocks for a stable career. Let us honor those students by validating their efforts and creating more opportunities for their continued success.

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