Imagine America Foundation Research Shows For-Profit Schools Play a Vital Role in Higher Education

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Career College News

With the career education sector once again about to take center stage, the Imagine America Foundation has released its annual Fact Book, which presents some compelling research that provides a picture of the nation's career colleges and how the labor force is impacted by its graduates.

The Imagine America Foundation's Fact Book 2011: A Profile of Career Colleges and Universities compares private-for-profit, or career colleges, with public and not-for-profit two- and four-year colleges, and features more than 40 pages of research and analysis. The research compiled by JBL Associates, Inc. includes data from the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other publications that present a statistical analysis of the for-profit sector and its students.

The information provided is defined by areas of interests such as enrollment figures, student benefits, and outcomes, student profiles, return on investment statistics and job opportunities for graduates. The terminology included in the Fact Book is also clearly explained to help readers further understand the for-profit sector.

"The research shows career colleges play a significant role in higher education by serving a diverse student population," said Robert L. Martin, president of the Imagine America Foundation. Career college students are more likely to be older than 25, first-generation college students, married and financially independent.

While questions about the value of career education has permeated media reports and Senate hearing testimony, the Fact Book shows that career colleges make a tremendous difference in the lives of its graduates, especially those who are minority or female:

  • Fifty-eight percent of all Hispanic students and half of all African-American students who received certificates in 2008-09 earned them at a career college
  • Forty-seven percent of all female students and 29 percent of all male students who received certificates in 2008-09 earned them at a career college
  • Twenty-seven percent of all African-American students and 20 percent of all Hispanic students who received Associate degrees in 2008-09 earned them at a career college

The numbers are just as inspiring on the job front as graduates from career colleges face increased opportunities for employment particularly in the health, technology and business fields.

  • One-fourth of career college students are enrolled in programs in high-growth fields compared with public (18 percent) and private, not-for-profit (13 percent) institutions
  • Career colleges awarded 44 percent of all Associate degrees in biomedical/mechanical/electronic engineering; 63 percent of all computer/technology degrees; 52 percent of all financial/accounting degrees; and 91 percent of all skin care/aesthetician degrees in 2008-09

The Fact Book also explores the return on investment for taxpayer dollars that fund an education for some students. According to the research, career college students repay the public cost of their education within five years after graduation and provide an 18 percent annual net return on investment for each public tax dollar spent. Career colleges have an annual net cost to taxpayers of $183 per student, compared with $13,249 per public postsecondary student and $16,669 per private, not-for-profit student.

These are a few of the most compelling facts in the Imagine America Foundation's 2011 Fact Book. For more information about the Foundation's Fact Book or to request copies, please contact the Foundation at or call 202.336.6800.