Are “For-Profit Degrees” Worth It?

The first thing we need to understand is the meaning of “For-Profit Degrees”; for this article a “for-profit degree” will be any degree obtained from any for-profit College or University. There are several for profit universities available to students of all occupations and lifestyles, the most well advertised might be the University of Phoenix. Everyone has seen the commercials or web advertisements.

I am the product of a for-profit university, having completed my doctoral studies at the University of Phoenix. Prior to my work at the University of Phoenix, I successfully completed a B.S. in Mathematics at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, and an M.B.A. as a dual major in Management and Information Systems at New York University in New York. Therefore, I am quite comfortable with my education, yet when I decided to pursue a doctorate the same question crossed my mind. Are for-profit degrees worth it?

When I decided to pursue my doctorate, I had three children and was firmly rooted in my career; because of my situation, there was no way I could attend a traditional university and sustain my family on a typical university doctoral stipend; I had to work AND go to school. I had to ask myself, why pursue this degree. The answer I found was to pursue the degree for myself. I was planning for MY future, wanting to teach at a college level. While an M.B.A. might work, a doctorate would open many more doors.

In the traditional university setting I typically studied a subject for approximately 15 weeks, a usual semester. While attending the University of Phoenix I spent 8 weeks in class studying a subject and was required to produce well-thought and clear representation of my studies including numerous papers. In the business world, turn-around times are rapid and employees are not afforded months or years to resolve an issue. Which educational format more closely resembles the business environment?

While studying for my MBA, I generally conducted research alone, and completed much of my work alone. While for my doctorate, I worked in small groups with people who had different work experiences , different priorities and who were sometimes working remotely via laptop and email. Again, which format more closely resembles the current business environment?

Traditional colleges and universities tend to weight material more towards the theoretical, while the University of Phoenix, and I am sure other for-profit universities, weight more towards the practical. Business people need to be able to balance both the theoretical as well as the practical.

It seems easy to argue that there is something wrong with “For Profit Education” as opposed to either State or Private schools, after all it’s not the standard and norm to which we are accustomed. Nevertheless, both traditional as well as for-profit colleges and universities are businesses. Both require revenue, have budgets, and are responsible for outcomes. So really, traditional and for-profit education is not very different.

So if you ask me, Are For-Profit Degrees Worth It? Maybe the real question is why do you want a degree?