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Cost and lack of majors are among the top reasons why students leave for-profit colleges

Cost and lack of majors are among the top reasons why students leave for-profit colleges

The Conversation 

Molly Ott and Thomas Zimmerman
June 8, 2023
For the majority of students, the college where they enroll is often the one from where they will graduate. But not so for the approximately 1 million students who transfer each year from one school to another. Of these 1 million, about 100,000 students transfer from one of the approximately 2,300 for-profit universities that exist in the U.S. That’s a sizable portion of the approximately 777,000 students who attend for-profit colleges.
As researchers who specialize in higher education, we are especially interested in why students leave for-profit universities. These schools have been criticized for deceptive recruiting practices, being overpriced and failing to adequately prepare graduates for well-paying jobs.
In an effort to better understand the reasons behind the transfers, we interviewed 12 students who transferred from a private for-profit to a public university in the fall of 2021. Below are four main themes that emerged from our conversations.
1. Too expensive
Affordability came up repeatedly among the students we interviewed. A quarter said attending a for-profit initially seemed less expensive than a public university option. However, after they enrolled, the costs went up. They initially received a scholarship from the for-profit but did not realize it was only for the first year and nonrenewable. Their experiences are not unusual. Financial aid offers are often vague about the total costs that students are expected to pay.
Half of those we interviewed also shared that despite receiving some institutional scholarships, they had to take out loans to cover the balance. As they watched their debt grow, particularly in cases in which their initial scholarships expired, they realized transferring to a public university would be cheaper.
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