For-Profit vs. Not-for-Profit Colleges and Universities- What You Should Know

by Pamela Rossow

If you are researching colleges, you may have noticed more than a distinct difference between schools—whether they are for-profit or not-for-profit. No two universities are the same and, depending on if your chosen college is for-profit or not-for-profit, it could make a difference in your education, finances, and overall college experience.

for profit vs not for profitFor-profit Colleges:

  • Typically operate like other businesses and have investors who expect the college to make a profit

  • Historically often accredited by national groups although some are accredited by regional crediting agencies

  • Tend to be more expensive than not-for-profit colleges

  • Could better focus students into high demand career paths

  • Typically spend more money on recruitment and marketing

  • May offer quick paced classes

Looking to enroll in a for-profit college? Take a look at the following schools:


Not-for-profit Colleges:

  • Usually receive funding from the government

  • Typically include community colleges and state universities

  • Tend to be less expensive than for-profit schools

  • Many are accredited by one of six regional crediting agencies

  • May have broader areas of study

  • Money made is usually put back into the school in the form of academics, facilities, faculty, or to conduct research

You may be interested in the following non-for-profit colleges:


Regardless of whether you are leaning towards a for-profit or not-for-profit school, you should consider these factors when selecting a college or university:

Accreditation and reputation. Does the school you are interested in have a solid reputation with regards to accreditation? Accreditation requires every part of a school or program to be examined and judged by experts. If the school makes the grade, then it “passes.” If a college is accredited, it is important to know the reputation of the accrediting agency. You can check the Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) for more information regarding which colleges and universities are accredited.

Flexibility. Does the for-profit or not-for-profit college offer a flexible schedule? Is this factor important to you or not? You may find that if you work full-time, you’ll prefer a school schedule which is more easily adapted around your schedule.