For-profit colleges yield higher graduation rates than several two- and four-year Chicago colleges
For-profit colleges are currently surpassing most community colleges and some state universities in graduation rates and per-pupil spending in Illinois, according to statistics provided by government and educational tracking organizations.
For example, the University of Phoenix has higher graduation rates than 26 community colleges in Illinois, and Chicago State University, along with various four-year colleges in Illinois, had an abysmal graduation rate of 2 percent recently, the data indicate.
Enrollment has suffered tremendously in recent years at city and state colleges.
“Overall enrollment is down 25 percent, and undergraduate enrollment is down 32 percent in one year, the largest decline of any public university in the state,” the Chicago Tribune said.
Meanwhile, a debate continues to rage at the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., regarding financial aid eligibility given to students at for-profit schools. The actual numbers demonstrating that some for-profit schools have better outcomes than community colleges, or even state colleges, have not received much attention.
Wilbur Wright College, formerly known as Wright Junior College, is a public community college in Chicago that was established in 1934. The school is part of the City Colleges of Chicago system, with an enrollment of approximately 11,000 students. The college offers two-year associate’s degrees, as well as occupational training for informational technology, manufacturing, medical and business careers. In its recent graduating class of 5,385 students, 108, or 2 percent, graduated. Tuition for the 2015-2016 school year was $3,506. The school received $1.56 million in Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants, a state financial aid program, in addition to $12 million in state subsidies. The state subsidies provided $1,114 per student and $7,428 per graduate. As far as federal financial aid, students received $17.4 million in grants and $7.9 million in federal loans, for a total of $25 million.
Malcolm X College, another school in the City Colleges of Chicago, also offers two-year associates’ degrees and career-oriented education in various fields of study. It had a recent enrollment of 5,550 students. Out of a graduating class of 2,775, a mere 83 students graduated, which is equivalent to a low 3 percent graduation rate. Malcolm X College’s recent per-pupil spending is $9,935, but the school’s spending per graduate was $110,390. Most of the funding for Malcolm X College is supplied by taxpayers. Approximately $14.4 million is derived from property taxes, and another $8.2 million was acquired from state aid. Federal taxpayers contribute approximately $14.4 million in federal Pell Grants, which ultimately do not have to be paid back.
Frontier Community College is another Illinois junior college, located in Fairfield, Illinois, in the southeast corner of the state. Similar to Wright College, the school offers two-year associate’s degrees, as well as various technical certifications. Frontier’s recent enrollment was 2,229 students, which represents 5.74 percent of all community college students in southern Illinois. From a graduating class of 1,115 students, 758 of those actually graduated, a graduation rate of 68 percent. The college received only $59,000 in state MAP grants. Total student financial aid totaled $2.2 million in grants and only $260,000 in federal loans. The school’s tuition is comparable to Wright Community College, at $2,858.
Out of Illinois' 46 community colleges, the graduation rate remains at 11 percent. Collectively, in the most recent period, 16,377 students graduated from community colleges statewide.
State colleges are financed by the state, and local taxpayers in some cases, as well as being funded on a per-student basis by tuition, state aid, and student grants and loans provided by the federal government. Private colleges and institutions are categorized as nonprofit corporations and are financed similarly, except the majority of private establishments have endowment funds. For example, Harvard's endowment fund is $38 billion. Although private schools such as Harvard hold money in endowment funds and pay administrators executive-level salaries, they are not considered for-profit schools.
For-profit schools such as the University of Phoenix are established as regular corporations and are allowed to retain revenue and, in turn, distribute their profits to investors.
The University of Phoenix operates a Chicago-area campus in Schaumburg, Illinois. The online campus has a 20 percent graduation rate, according to the Open Education Database, found at oedb.org. The on-site campus has a 16 percent graduation rate. Relatively, these figures cannot compare with major universities such as the University of Chicago or Harvard University, which have extremely high admission standards. Considering that both community colleges and for-profit schools like the University of Phoenix have open enrollment, the for-profit institutions appear to have a more effective academic model when comparing graduation rates alone.
Of students who were enrolled in the fall of 2014 and are still enrolled in the fall of 2015, the University of Phoenix had a retention rate of 34.6 percent. In the 2009-2010 academic year, the University of Phoenix boasted an enrollment of 130,742 first-time, full-time undergraduates. Out of this group of students, 21,337 graduated, giving the school a 16 percent graduation rate.