Who Attends For-Profit Institutions?: The Enrollment Landscape


For-profit educational institutions, particularly universities and other institutions of vocational and higher learning, have seen enormous, “almost exponential” growth in recent years. The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that from 1998–99 to 2008–09, the number of associate’s and bachelor’s degrees conferred by for-profit postsecondary institutions grew by 125 and 400 percent respectively. The corresponding growth in associate and bachelor degree conferrals from public universities was 33 and 29 percent over the same time period. Other research has shown that since 1976, for-profit enrollment has grown at an annualized rate of about 11 percent, much faster than the sector a whole. While they are still a relatively small part of the overall higher education landscape, their size, scope and influence are rapidly expanding.