It’s Not Fair to Lump All For-Profit Schools Into One Bucket
By Matt C. Peeling
While the ongoing investigation into Corinthian College is exposing the poor management and improper practices of that particular school, the findings are not indicative of all for-profit schools.
Take, for example, American Public University System (APUS), which is comprised of my alma mater, American Military University (AMU), and American Public University. Both schools transfer credits between for-profit and not-for-profit schools—in my case, from Johns Hopkins University to AMU.
I received my Bachelor of Information Technology Management from AMU. I’m also an AMU graduate student completing my final classes for my Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Information Technology. In addition to my school work, I’m a member of AMU’s Golden Key honor society, Delta Mu Delta honor society, and president of its chapter of the Student Veterans of America (SVA), which is among its largest chapters with more than 1,400 members. In my personal and work life, I’m the chief information officer for a health system in Maryland and a retired U.S. Army Reserve combat medic from the Cold War era.
I point out some of my credentials, because I believe it’s important to show there are successful, educated students like myself who worked very hard at evaluating prospective schools before making a final decision. In my case, I took six months for a virtual college road trip, because I’m a paraplegic and use a wheelchair. Working full-time and sitting in a classroom in the evening would be harmful to my health. In addition to AMU, I looked at several other schools similarly known for effectively serving military and veteran students.
I considered the breadth of programs the schools offered and the affordable tuition, given that my G.I. Bill was no longer available to me. Ultimately, I settled on AMU, because I could work at my own pace, they offered the undergraduate and graduate programs I sought, the tuition is less than my in-state tuition cost at my state university, and the added benefit that I would be attending classes with fellow service members. The course materials I have used at AMU were top-notch and current. The school offers a book buy-back program and a book grant that provide the materials for undergraduates at no cost.
Through my work with AMU as a student and SVA chapter president, I have had the unique opportunity to speak to members of Congress regarding the ongoing debate about the merits of for-profit vs. not-for-profit colleges, including the tuition assistance program and the alleged targeting of service members, both active and retired, by for-profit schools to take advantage of tuition reimbursement. I have also had many discussions with senior members of SVA National about these same issues.
My consistent message to all of them has been that not all for-profit schools are bad. In fact, some, such as APUS, actually work very hard to provide a top-notch education. Toward this end, they regularly review course curricula, communicate frequently with students about academic quality, survey course participants after a class has been completed, enforce the use of anti-plagiarism tools, encourage participation in virtual student organizations like SVA , provide rich and current tools for use in courses, offer a virtual veterans center with veteran-related resources, and much more.
I should add that APUS does not market itself in the same way as some other for-profit colleges do. Many students like me decide to attend on the recommendation of our peers. Such word-of-mouth marketing has provided APUS with higher-quality students and allowed them to keep their undergraduate tuition at the same rate for more than ten years and counting. How many not-for-profit institutions can make the same claim?
In regard to careers, no college, for-profit or not-for-profit, can guarantee job placement upon graduation. APUS, however, offers virtual career fairs by partnering with companies seeking qualified applicants. The university also provides guidance on resume and job interview skills, facilitates mentors, hosts a job portal for students, and solicits and implements on-going student feedback on what more can be done to assist in securing employment.
For-profit schools will continue to flourish and force change in the not-for-profit education system because of their commitment to provide quality education using the latest educational materials and tools. This is largely due to the ability of for-profit schools to invest in areas like technology and educational materials that will provide an enhanced student experience and outcome.
Online education, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, is the way of the future. Technology allows users to manage their life decisions as they see fit. Online education is no different. As the educational system becomes more consumerized through technology use, many traditional brick-and-mortar schools will become a thing of the past.
The current energy put into debating the respective merits or detriments of for-profits and not-for-profits would be better directed toward discussions involving both types of schools. No longer should they be stereotyped into profit or not-for-profit, but rather traditional and modern education systems, with the larger goal of creating improved quality and outcomes overall by using the best practices of both.
The opinions written here are my own.
About the Author
Matt Peeling is an information technology professional with over 25 years in the industry, a disabled veteran from the Cold War era, and an alumnus of American Military University, where he received his B.S. in Information Technology Management. Currently, he is a senior graduate student at AMU pursuing his MBA with a concentration in Information Technology.