For-Profit College Sector Continues to Shrink

July 15, 2016

The number of for-profit postsecondary institutions and the number of students they enroll are continuing to wither, according to data released by the U.S. Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics on Thursday.

In a new report, the center said that the number of for-profit colleges eligible to award federal financial aid fell to 3,265 last fall, down from 3,436 in fall 2014, a decline of 5 percent. The number of public institutions grew by one and the number of private nonprofit colleges grew by 26 over that year (from 1,883 to 1,909).

The number of students enrolled by for-profit colleges in the 2014-15 academic year, meanwhile, dropped by 10.6 percent from the previous year. (The enrollment figures lag the institutional number count by one year.) For-profit colleges enrolled 2,850,970 unduplicated students in 2014-15, down from 3,188,978 in 2013-14.

Overall college enrollment dropped by about 450,000 from 2013-14 to 2014-15, with community colleges the other sector of institution that saw a decline. Four-year public and private nonprofit colleges saw modest bumps in enrollment over that year.

The declines in community college and for-profit enrollments are mostly due to the improving economy, with more young adults opting for work over education. But the Obama administration's aggressive regulation of for-profit higher education also has played a role in its declines.

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