Three Ways Proprietary Institutions Offer Students More Than They Pay ForLaura Bristow | Former Center Dean of the Keller School of Business, DeVry University
In today’s climate of high postsecondary tuition, prospective students are asking whether college is worth the investment, challenging colleges and universities across the board—both traditional and proprietary—to prove an ROI.
Arguably, measurement of ROI seems to start with gainful employment. But it does not end there. Just as traditional postsecondary education alone (and for that matter, career training alone) carries important value that does not always translate to immediate earning power, so students’ ROI from their proprietary experience adds up to more than dollars and cents.
There are three main ways the proprietary schools’ value proposition to students is realized in how it meets student expectations: via relationships with employers that connect students to jobs, a student/customer focus, and its own accountabilities. From this perspective, proprietary institutions continue to strive for student ROI on all fronts.
1. Employer-Student Connections
Proprietary institutions have long been able to respond to, or even anticipate, employer needs. Practical programs of study developed to meet those needs are rolled out with relative speed. As a result, graduates of proprietary schools can be first to market with in-demand skillsets, particularly in emerging technologies. Moreover, many proprietary schools seek out partnerships with employers to create two pipelines; one that identifies additional training opportunities for new programs aimed at current employees, and another that provides future job candidates from a pool of graduating students or alumni.
2. Maintaining a Student/Customer Focus
With revenue coming primarily from tuition, and retention a critical success factor for the bottom line, proprietary institutions emphasize customer service and satisfaction. As students often come from at-risk or non-traditional backgrounds, they may have an expectation of extra administrative oversight, particularly in the areas of academic advisement and registration or financial planning. Further, having administrators readily available to listen to student concerns and offering well-developed career services and extra-curricular life-skills training also supports the student.
Proprietary institutions report metrics over and above profit maximization and shareholder value. Key metrics include reporting graduation rates, gainful employment, certification rates, and ability to find employment in a field related to their program of study. When the proprietary institution responsibly achieves its metrics, the student benefits.
What a student gains from their experience at a proprietary institution is no less significant than classic ROI, even if it is not readily quantifiable. To be sure, the proprietary institution that provides occupational training with a serving of dedicated career development and job placement assistance has the potential to offer the student a shorter path to employment than does its more traditional counterpart. The end result notwithstanding, when coupled with a less conventional ROI perspective in student experience, it is possible that with proprietary preparation students may well get more than they pay for.