Updated Carnegie Classifications Reveals the Transformation to Higher Education

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has released its Updated Carnegie Classifications, and the news confirms what many of us have suspected in the dramatically altering landscape of higher education.  Said Chun-Mei Zhao, who directs Carnegie’s Classifications, “This suggests that the higher education landscape is shifting further away from the traditional model of the liberal arts college.”

The Updated Classifications indicate far more than just the shift away from the traditional liberal arts college that still dominates the way many of us think of colleges and universities.  The private, for-profit sector represented 77% of the new institutions since the last time the Classifications were released in 2005.  Moreover the shift is particularly noticeable in the increase in the number of schools with a professional focus; those schools with a “Professional Focus” or a “Professional Focus plus arts & sciences” now award 60% of the bachelor’s degrees in professional fields.

While the transforming character of higher education is evident in these numbers, the change in enrollments in only five years is particularly telling.  Between 2005 and 2010, traditional public institutions’ enrollments grew by 13.9%, and traditional private institutions’ enrollments grew by 9.3%.  By contrast, the enrollments in private, for-profit colleges and universities more than doubled, growing by 110%.

The shifting industry was also revealed in what is occurring at the community college level.  Those schools classified as traditional associate’s colleges increased dramatically the extent to which they are awarding not just associates’ degrees but bachelors’ degrees as well.  In 2005, 109 traditional associates’ colleges awarded bachelor’s degrees; in 2010, the number was 162, a 49% increase.

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Huffington Post: “Community Colleges Overcrowding”

Yesterday, the Huffington Post published my opinion piece on community college overcrowding and the merits of for-profit colleges as an alternative. The article notes:

Limiting students’ educational opportunities creates barriers to success that many cannot overcome. As students seek opportunities in higher education, we must be careful not to limit these options for any segment of society; instead, we should support a system that encourages all students to pursue higher education. A 21st century economy depends upon a person’s knowledge as a foundation for increased personal earnings and the economy’s enlarged capacity to grow.

A recent Washington Post article cited difficulties that community colleges are having nationwide. Due to budget shortfalls, many of these institutions can no longer accommodate the number of students interested in attending. They have been forced to turn applicants away. In Colorado, where I served as president of Colorado State University, the waiting lists for nursing programs at some community colleges can be as long as 3.5 years. Due to overcrowding and underfunding, nursing students in Colorado face the alternative of a career for which they have less passion or a wait of more than 3 years.

Click here to view the full story.

New Study: Career Colleges Outrank Community Colleges

Yesterday, Norton Norris, Inc. released a survey of 332 career college students who have attended community colleges in the past. The study was of particular interest to me because of my family’s long-time involvement with and support of community colleges; my wife spent 35 years as faculty member and administrator, and both she and my son have Associate’s degrees.  The Norton Norris survey found that career colleges ranked higher on 13 out of 14 aspects of its study, including job placement services and flexibility of class schedules.

What I found most interesting was the study’s break-down of the costs of education between the for-profit sector and the publicly funded community college.  There was a significant difference between career and community colleges with career colleges’ costing about $25,000 more per student graduate. The study makes the following observations.  Community colleges only graduate 20.3% of their enrolled students, compared to 58.2% at private sector schools.  Community colleges do not assist most students with job placement and community colleges are not more accessible to students; overcrowding and scheduling continue to be major concerns.

Traditional community colleges do provide a low price option for someone to take a single course or a few courses, and this is part of their mission and a source of the higher cost per graduating student.  But the outcomes of the study are noteworthy, especially in light of the very high cost-per-graduate difference.  It is also worth noting, in light of the recent GAO report on for-profit colleges and universities, that the Norton Norris study found some less-than admirable practices from traditional community colleges.  Community colleges are also guilty of withholding important information from prospective students, such as graduation rates. Moreover, like their career college counterpart, community colleges also advertise relatively widely today, and they use the public’s tax dollars to do so.   While no misleading practice by career colleges or community colleges is acceptable, the study paints a much more positive picture of the for-profit career college than information the public has recently received from many media.

Click here to view one video that was produced as a result of the study.