The Growth of For-Profit Colleges in California: Impacts on the Health Professions


Tim Bates, Catherine Dower, Susan A. Chapman

July 31, 2014

The growth of for-profit postsecondary institutions in the US has been the focus of several national studies, media reports, and legislative activity in recent years. Concerns have been raised about the role these schools – especially two-year, private colleges – play in training the country’s healthcare workforce. These concerns include the quality of education, participation in loan programs, student debt load, and competition with community colleges. To understand the impact of private for-profit institutions on postsecondary education in California, we undertook an analysis of data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education System (IPEDS). Using these data, we were able to compare enrollment and completion totals of public, private non-profit, and private for-profit schools. Overall, we found that institutions in the public sector enroll by far the most students but the private, for-profit sector grew significantly between 2000 and 2010. Moreover, while the number of healthcare related degrees and certificates awarded over this period increased among all types of postsecondary institutions, the increase was greatest among those in the private for-profit sector. Additional research is needed to understand the role that private for-profit institutions play in postsecondary health professions education, and the impact they have on student experiences and the broader healthcare workforce.