The number of career colleges and the number of credentials they award have dropped by roughly 20 percent in the last four years, new data from the U.S. Education Department show.
An annual report from the National Center for Education Statistics finds that there were 2,791 for-profit colleges eligible to award federal financial aid in 2017-18, compared to 2,899 the year before and 3,436 in 2014-15, as previous versions of the reports showed. All told that represents a drop of 18.8 percent in the number of such colleges, which have seen their enrollments drop significantly amid an economic recovery (which typically hurts the enrollment of career-focused colleges), intensive regulatory scrutiny from the Obama administration and declining public confidence.
During the same time period, the number of public and private nonprofit colleges remained largely static, varying by fewer than 20 each. There were 1,973 public colleges and 1,878 private nonprofit colleges in 2017-18, according to the federal data.
An even larger proportional decline occurred in the number of credentials offered by colleges in the sector, the federal report shows. From 2012-13 to 2016-17, while the overall number of higher education credentials climbed by 1.2 percent, the number conferred by for-profit institutions fell by 29.2 percent, from 518,956 to 367,529.