March 14, 2010

For-Profit Institutions Meet Adult Students’ Unique Needs

To the Editor:

We were interested to read “For-Profit Colleges Change Higher Education’s Landscape” (The Chronicle, February 7). The rapid growth of these institutions demonstrates the need for higher education to keep pace with the changing profile of today’s students, especially the growing population of adult students who must balance professional and family responsibilities while advancing their educations.

The article, however, advocates a point of view that implies that nonprofit institutions cannot accommodate nontraditional students. On the contrary, a few traditional universities have long embraced the needs of adult students, and are succeeding with solid results, measured by strong graduation rates and low defaults on student loans. For example, Brandman University, the adult-education affiliate of Chapman University, has served adult students for more than 50 years.

The article states, “Of course, it’s in a for-profit university’s financial interest to hang onto students through graduation,” implying high completion/graduation rates; however, no rates were cited. At Brandman University, our graduation rates rank among the best in the industry, with a 68-percent rate for transfer-to-graduation in four years. In addition, our student-loan default rates stack up among the best, with a low 2.2-percent rate for two years for the Chapman University System.

The article also implied that serving minority students has a negative impact on graduation and default rates. At Brandman the 37 percent of our graduates who are minorities helped us achieve our outstanding graduation and default rates.

High graduation rates combined with low student-loan-default rates demonstrate our ability to accommodate the unique needs of adult students. We dedicate significant resources to providing services and support to help adult students navigate the university landscape. In fact, nonprofit universities spend the lion’s share of their budgets on instruction, academic support, and student services, as opposed to focusing on student acquisition and enrollment.

Adult students do have an attractive alternative for advancing their education through high-quality public and private nonprofit institutions. We have evolved our model to meet their needs with tremendous success, measured by the most important criteria of all—strong graduation rates and satisfied alumni with the desire and ability to pay back their loans.

Gary Brahm
Brandman University
Irvine, Calif.

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