- Some analysts believe the for-profit higher education sector is rebalancing amid the current decline, finding new niches for continued success.
- Some may turn away from federal aid dollars all together, like Patten University, or narrow their target student audience, like the University of Phoenix is trying to do and Capella has done for a long time.
- Government regulations tamping down on the sector’s rapid growth reflects similar activity in the 1980s, suggesting the current upheaval is part of a cycle that will eventually shift once again toward growth and prosperity.
While the career-focused programs at community colleges appear to be direct competition with for-profit offerings, the latest decline in enrollment at for-profits is also being seen at community colleges. The head of the for-profit trade group the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities said the students that many for-profits have recruited were not choosing among higher education options, but were on the fence about higher ed at all. Much of their growth came from creating demand, not serving it.
Now, competition for online for-profit education providers is coming predominantly from online nonprofits, which have actually seen increasing enrollment during this latest period of decline across much of the for-profit sector. Ashford University will now focus exclusively on its online offerings, closing the campus in Iowa that gave it a springboard into higher ed.