April 25th, 2019

Why “Not-for-Profit” Matters—The For-Profit College Closure Crisis


Smiling culinary students, at the CIA, a not-for-profit college.

It’s a question all students should be asking as they go through the college search process: what’s the difference between “for-profit” and “not-for-profit” colleges?

The answer is crucial to their future success. There’s a good reason top colleges like The Culinary Institute of America make it a point to highlight their “not-for-profit” status. In today’s education landscape, it’s important to understand the difference given the recent for-profit closures.

Some Alarming Numbers

Students should be aware of the facts. An analysis of federal data by The Chronicle of Higher Education shows that in the last five years, about half a million students have been displaced by college closures of more than 1,200 campuses. In nearly 90 percent of them, it was a for-profit college that shut down.

And according to The Chronicle: While for-profit colleges represent only about one-tenth of U.S. college enrollment, they account for nearly 85 percent of students displaced by closures in that five-year time frame.

Certainly not all for-profits are bad—there are plenty of legitimate colleges that run under a for-profit umbrella. But others have drawn scrutiny for their fraudulent admissions practices, misleading promises, and questionable tactics. In recent years, the growing number of college fraud claims are nearly all (more than 98%) against for-profits.

As the saying goes—if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

There have been a number of culinary for-profit college closures in the last few years. Le Cordon Bleu shut down all 16 of its U.S. culinary schools in 2016. Education Corp. of America, one of the nation’s largest for-profit college chains, closed its doors in late 2018. Art Institutes campuses have been closing a number of campuses across the country. These students who have spent thousands of dollars on their education have no degree to show for it.

So What Makes a Not-for-Profit Different?

The advantages for colleges and students are many. The Culinary Institute of America’s status as a not-for-profit culinary college offers many positive outcomes:

  • Unburdened by owners or shareholders, the CIA can act in the students’ best interests without commercial profit, and exists primarily to deliver world-class culinary education while maintaining its core values.
  • Tuition and other financial resources go right back into the college’s education mission, so students can be confident the money they invest helps them receive the very best education.
  • There’s a trust factor for students that just isn’t there with for-profit colleges. The CIA’s unrivaled reputation in the food industry means employers look to its graduates first when hiring.
  • Students who graduate from not-for-profit institutions show a much lower education-loan default rate.

Under these considerations, not-for-profit is clearly the choice for one of the most important decisions of your life. There’s too much risk investing your education dollars in “for-profit” when the potential return is the for-profit college shutting down. Better by far to choose a not-for-profit college like The Culinary Institute of America, whose strong values, reliability, longevity, and unmatched industry reputation add up to a respected degree and career success for students.