Do schools like the University of Phoenix or Devry ring a bell? They should, particularly since the University of Phoenix name adorns the Arizona Cardinals (professional) football stadium, not to mention the millions spent on advertising their services to the public. Unlike many of the non-profit education institutions, these schools offer for-profit services and are even publicly traded companies (Apollo Group Inc, which runs University of Phoenix, is listed on NASDAQ as APOL).
Our last Study Tour class brought in a managing director from Barclays and the founder of a for-profit education provider in Brazil. Both of our guests are intimately familiar with investment in for-profit education as either a beneficiary or investor, insisting that these institutions offer a helpful path to bring "non-traditional" candidates into higher education. Through a curriculum that emphasizes flexibility, these institutions offer students the ability to take night classes, fit in class time between jobs, and bring more people into the education system.
However, the issue of quality was less straightforward. After healthy debate, it seemed that the traditional measures of quality and success--drop-out rates, after-school employment, average salaries-- were less appropriate given the targeted population. This left me wondering how we can appropriately capture the effectiveness of for-profit education. I'm curious to see how this plays out on our visit to Brazil. Is there a distinction in quality between for-profit and non-profit education providers? Hopefully I can report back after our “on the ground” experience in Brazil!