If you’re in the process of choosing a college, you may be wondering if there’s a difference between for-profit and non-profit colleges. Both kinds of colleges are valid choices, but there are a few things that you should consider before deciding on going to a for-profit or non-profit school.

Academics

One difference between for-profit and non-profit colleges that you need to think about has to do with academics. What type of career are you looking at going into? Non-profit colleges have a wide range of academic majors to pick from, but for-profit schools tend to focus more on vocational education. While non-profit schools can have vocational options, many majors are research-oriented. For instance, English, sociology and music are all popular majors at non-profit schools. For-profit schools have programs like automotive technology, culinary arts and dog training. Before choosing a school based on what you want to study, find out whether each school is accredited or not. Non-profit colleges are usually regionally accredited, but for-profit schools tend to be nationally accredited. While many people assume that national accreditation is better than regional accreditation, employers often don’t feel this way. Some are fine with either type of accreditation, but many prefer to hire employees that have graduated from a regionally accredited school.

Time

At a non-profit college, it usually takes one year to complete a certification program, two years to earn an associate’s degree and four years to earn a bachelor’s degree. You can cut the number of semesters it will take you to finish by taking more courses each semester, passing CLEP or similar tests after studying on your own or enrolling in summer semesters. In general, though, most people take the full amount of time listed above. For-profit schools can be much more flexible. Many of them have accelerated programs so that you can earn your certificate or degree quickly. Quite a few even specifically focus on helping you graduate as soon as possible. Strangely enough, even though students at for-profit schools have shorter programs, a lower percentage of them graduate compared to their peers at non-profit colleges. The difference between for-profit and non-profit colleges’ graduation rates are actually quite significant.

Cost

This is perhaps the most important difference between for-profit and non-profit colleges for many students. While you should always check each college’s cost out for yourself, the general rule of thumb is that for-profit colleges cost more than non-profit colleges. Along with having lower tuition rates, non-profit colleges are more likely to offer students better financial aid packages. This is because non-profit schools put extra money towards scholarship programs and are more likely to receive grants from state programs, federal programs and individuals so that low-income students can afford to attend school. Local families and businesses also often contribute. Because for-profit schools can have shorter programs, though, you should analyze the cost of each school that you want to go to so that you can get an estimate of what your whole degree will end up costing.

Related: Top 20 Online Colleges with High Return on Investment

Depending on your goals and the individual schools that you are thinking about attending, you may choose either a for-profit or non-profit college. There are some big differences between for-profit and non-profit colleges, so do some research before deciding to attend either type of school.

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