The successful operation of education is critical to the success of the institution as well as the student. Whether private or public, post secondary education needs to be operated with business savvy in order to stay in operation.
With this in mind, it is perhaps easier to think of a private, for-profit school turning out educated, knowledgeable, graduates. I have two graduate degrees from a private, for-profit university: one in Education Administration and one in Business Administration. Those two degrees, combined with my undergraduate degree in Journalism from a public institution, have given me a very solid background in Education (I have been teaching at the college level for over 15 years) Business (I own my own consulting company, providing business training to executives across the country) and finally in Writing (I am a freelance writer with credits in both the on-line content world and the regular print media.)
The private, for-profit schools are subject to rules and regulations set out by the accrediting agencies, just like public schools are. In order to continue operating in the various states, all schools must comply with regulatory bodies like the state department of education. Federal laws like FER PA are mandatory in any school, public or private, that receives Federal funding. This Federal funding in private schools comes from the students who receive financial aid. In order to qualify for that financial aid, the school must be in compliance with certain Federal regulations. Private schools cannot run ‘diploma mills’ and expect to stay in business.
Public schools are under scrutiny by the exact same agencies and if they don’t pass muster, they are subject to censure and even closing, just like the private schools. Budgets are created and need to be followed by both schools, requiring a certain amount of business savvy, which actually begs the question: Are private, for-profit schools (run as a business) perhaps better prepared than public schools, which are typically run as an institution first?
The fact that private for-profit schools are run with a bottom line in mind should make them even more attractive as an institution of higher education. There is another reason, however, that I believe a degree from a for-profit college or university is worth it. That reason, the reason we all go to school in the first place, is the actual education one will get from the school. The content that is presented in the private schools is current and meets the needs of the community as well as the student.
Private schools will typically have community business leaders involved in the curriculum development. Those business leaders know what knowledge they want their employees to have, and their input into the curriculum assures that the content is specific to their needs. The instructors are also required to be current in their content area, with not only upper division degrees in the field, but with work experience as well. Public university instructors do not always have that current work experience to bring to the class. They know the content, but may not be actually working in the field like the private school instructors are.
The bottom line here, is of course the student. If the student goes to school with the idea he or she will party for four years and skate through classes without really applying him or herself, the degree, whether it is from a private or public school, will worth only the effort that was applied to earning it. Any learning experience is only as good as the joint effort put forth by the school and the student. As educators in the adult learning environment, we know that our job is NOT to spoon feed the material into the student’s head, but to facilitate the learning of that material. It is always the responsibility of the student to learn the material and apply that learning to his or her professional goals. The student who says, “I didn’t learn anything from that school, or that teacher did not teach me anything.” failed in his or her responsibility to learn.
So, yes, a degree from a private, for-profit school is worth it. Just as a degree from a public university is worth it. Provided, of course, that the student goes to school with the idea of learning and applying that learning to his or her professional and personal goals.