Studies propose that although higher education is expensive, students who complete this level of education are found to be healthier earning a good salary as compared to high school graduates. Moreover, these individuals make the life of their offspring quite easier and are seen to be more productive at workplace. Due to a higher education degree, these individuals rely less on government funds and benefits. In other words, as compared to those individuals who receive a two-year associate/certificate degree, students having completed four years of college enjoy a better status, lifestyle and earn more (Kathleen, 2002). For this purpose, higher education does not only benefit the individual himself, but greatly influences the society. In essence, examining such advantages, individuals decide upon opting for higher education. If this is the case, then there must be an important factor(s) that shape an individual’s decision to leave college before earning a degree. This determinant would also be the one which the for-profit colleges miss out or pay little attention to when framing their retention policy. Therefore, this research aims at identifying these factors which influences student decision to drop out of college because despite the increasing rate of student enrollment in for-profit colleges (Aud, et al., 2010), approximately half a million individuals who got into for-profit colleges in 2008-2009 left the institute without a degree by 2010 (United States Senate, 2012). These drop-outs do not only risk the economy of the state and the stakeholders resulting in a valuable time loss of the students, but it also leaves the student with a huge loan debt which at times consumes their whole life to repay.
For-profit colleges attract a diverse category of students including single parents, working individuals and students belonging to lower strata of the society along with people of different race and color. In addition, a great majority is drawn towards this college because of the federal financial aid available to them (Deming, 2011). Regardless of these attractions, for-profit colleges have a higher probability of student persistence especially during the first year of the study. For this reason, a two year program at a for-profit college has more graduates as compared to the four year program (United States Senate, 2012). Hence, the underlying problem of this study is to identify the reason for a gap in the institute’s success in enrolling a good amount of students and its inability to retain them. In addition, the problem would extend to examine the major factor(s) that formulate student decision to drop out which corresponds to this gap. For this reason, it is essential to take a look at the factors which motivate students to leave or transfer from a for-profit college. There is a vast amount of literature present in this realm. For instance, student success and retention models presented by Tinto (1975), Astin (1984) and other theorists also examine a number of variables such as institute’s policies, academic factors and other variables that influence student’s decisions to leave college especially after the first year. However, these theories often lack many factors and at many occasions these variables cannot be applied on the different types of institutes that accommodate various segments of population. For this purpose, the problem if this study emphasizes on revealing the true nature of a for-profit college which has a similar structure like that of a profitable business. This is generated via the investments made by the taxpayers.
Uncovering the research problem of this study, will not only help colleges frame a successful complete retention model which would help increase student success and retention in all sorts of educational institutes, but it would also help researchers and policy makers to amend the profitable nature of for-profit colleges enabling it to emphasize more on improving its facilities and educating strategies and other matters which are of concern for the students. Despite the money which the for-profit colleges receive, research suggests that it spends very little on maintaining the quality of education being imparted at the institution which ultimately becomes an important unsatisfying factor that encourages students to leave for-profit college before completing their degree. This is evident by a number of findings which put forward the idea that students often complain that the educational standards and facilities informed through the initial marketing procedure at the time of admission differ in reality (United States Senate, 2012). According to Deming (2011), since for-profit colleges attract a number of non-traditional students (U.S. Department of Education, 2006) who do not have an idea of the type of education, training and facilities which they will receive, the initial marketing deceives a huge population who enrolls and finally leaves before getting a degree. This finding is further elaborated by other studies (United States Senate, 2012) which propose that students who drop out of for-profit colleges face dire consequences such as huge debts, unemployment, and overall dissatisfaction and ultimately become a burden for the society. In a similar way, it is not only the students but also the institute which suffers because of this decision. Revenues get affected and taxpayers face a serious trouble.
Hence, identifying the cause of for-profit colleges’ inability to retain students which they enroll along with the major factor that influences students to leave or transfer from for-profit colleges is an essential problem of this study as it will help for-profit colleges and policy makers design strategies that focus on student success and retention. In addition, addressing the problem of this study is also of vital importance for the scrutiny of federal policies which despite providing student loans to aid the process of education, helps for-profit colleges generate and benefit from the maximum profit (United States Senate, 2012). In this way, this study would provide a framework for other researches that would further expand the findings of this research thereby creating a deeper authentic impact on the true nature of for-profit colleges and the actual reason behind student drop out.
Astin, H. S. (1984). The meaning of work in women’s lives: A socio-psychological model of career choice and work behavior. The Counseling Psychologist, 12, 117- 126.
Aud, S., Hussar, W., Planty, M., Snyder, T., Bianco, K., Fox, M., Frohlich, L., Kemp, J., Drake, L. (2010). The Condition of Education 2010 (NCES 2010-028). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.
Deming, D. (2011). The for-profit postsecondary school sector: Nimble critters or agile predators? (NBER Working Paper 17710). Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research. Retrieved 26th February, 2013, from http://big.assets.huffingtonpost.com/forprofitpaper.pdf
Kathleen, P. (2002). The value of college degree. Washington DC: ERIC.
Tinto,V. (1975) Dropout from Higher Education: A Theoretical Synthesis of Recent Research. Review of Educational Research, 45, 89-125.
U.S. Department of Education (2006). A test of leadership: Charting the future of U.S. higher education. Washington, D.C. Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/hiedfuture/index.html.
US Senate Committee on health, education, labor and pensions. For Profit Higher Education: The Failure to Safeguard the Federal Investment and Ensure Student Success, July 30, 2012, (S.Prt 112-37). Washington: Government Printing Office, 2012.