Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Department of Educational Administration and Foundations: Educational Administration
James C. Palmer
The for-profit higher education sector has been part of the higher education landscape for over 200 years (Kinser, 2006). For the most part, this sector enrolled students who differed from students who attended public and private nonprofit institutions. Students at for-profit institutions were older working adults with children of their own, or who enrolled in higher education to enhance their careers. Accordingly, they had no time for pageantry, sports teams, and other extracurricular activities (Kinser, 2006). Notably, administrators at nonprofit institutions lacked interest in recruiting these students, because they did not fit into norms of their institutions (Deming, Goldin, & Katz, 2012). Consequently, the for-profit sector remained an unassuming part of the higher education landscape for many years, enrolling a minor portion of the student population.
However, this dynamic changed as "fall enrollment in for-profit degree-granting institutions grew by more than 100-fold from 18,333 in 1970 to 1.85 million in 2009" (Deming et al., 2012, p. 140). As a result, this sector now enrolls a substantial proportion of the student population.
For that reason, the differences between students at for-profit institutions and those at nonprofit institutions require an in-depth analysis.
With this in mind, I employed data from two National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) datasets to test 26 hypotheses that described differences between students at for-profit institutions and those at nonprofit institutions in four areas: academic preparation and background, demographics, factors involved in choosing a college, and the ways students paid for college. To differentiate this study from most other studies and to compare students with similar goals, I included only bachelor's degree-seeking students at four-year institutions. Cross-tabulations with Chi-square tests were used to test the hypotheses. The effect size for each cross tabulation was also calculated.
Because of the large sample sizes, all results yielded differences that were significant at the .001 level. Yet moderate to large effect sizes were found with regard to 4 demographic variables and 1 school-choice variable. Specifically, cross tabulations led to effect sizes of this magnitude when comparing bachelor's degree seeking students (across sectors) who were (a) financially independent from their parents, (b) financially independent from their parents with children of their own, (c) single parents (independent students only), and (d) older than the age of 30. Similarly, in regard to school choice variables, effect sizes of over .30 were found in cross tabulations comparing the proportions of bachelor's degree seeking students across sectors who take all their courses online.
Young, Brian James, "For-Profit Higher Education Students: How Are They Different?" (2015). Theses and Dissertations. 338.