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How Corinthian’s Student Body Measured Up Against Other For-Profits: 4 Takeaways

Corinthian Colleges Inc. made waves in higher education this week when it announced it would abruptly close its remaining campuses, displacing 16,000 students. The campuses — operated by the Corinthian subsidiaries Everest College, Everest Institute, Heald College, and WyoTech — were located mostly in California and other western states.

Corinthian’s collapse followed years of government scrutiny and plummeting enrollments across much of the for-profit sector. The last few years have been rough for the industry, with many for-profits posting double-digit drops in enrollment.

The Chronicle took a look at six of the largest for-profits to get a sense of how the student body of colleges controlled by Corinthian compared with that at peer institutions. The analysis did not dive into enrollment or profit declines. Instead, we looked at cost, demographics, and financial aid.

Here are four takeaways from The Chronicle’s analysis of undergraduate data for the 2012-13 academic year from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or Ipeds.

1. When it comes to Pell Grants, several large for-profits are in the same boat.

Many backers of for-profit colleges assert that the industry serves populations that nonprofit colleges leave behind: nontraditional and low-income students. Critics argue that for-profits take advantage of those needy students. Whatever the case, the data show that for-profit colleges have a strong concentration of students with financial need. Indeed, at least 60 percent of students at all six of the for-profits that The Chronicle examined received Pell Grants. Most of the companies were within a few percentage points of each other on this measure, with Corinthian’s subsidiaries leading the pack.

Nationally, 76 percent of students at for-profit colleges receive federal grants, compared with 39 percent at public colleges and 34 percent at private nonprofits. It should be noted that those figures are from 2011-12, while the aggregated data is from 2012-13.

2. There are stark differences in the gender breakdowns of some for-profits’ enrollments.

For-profits seem to be all over the map when it comes to students’ gender. For instance, Kaplan University’s student body is 76 percent female. Meanwhile, 75 percent of ITT Tech’s students are male. Most for-profits tend to have slightly more female students. For example, at Corinthian’s institutions, female students made up 62 percent of undergraduates. That was just one percentage point more than at the Education Management Corporation, which includes Argosy University, the Art Institutes, Brown Mackie College, and South University.

3. Corinthian’s subsidiaries had an especially high share of minority students.

For-profits are known for their high minority enrollments. And Corinthian’s colleges — where minority students made up more than half of the total undergraduate population — were no exception. Hispanic and Latino students account for 27 percent of undergraduates, compared with 10 percent at the University of Phoenix and 8 percent at Kaplan.

4. Many of these institutions have similar levels of student-loan borrowing.

The average undergraduate at the colleges studied borrows $7,200 to $8,600 in federal student loans to pay for one year. The highest average amount is at ITT Tech, where the typical student borrows $8,568 per year. Meanwhile, the average student at Kaplan takes on $7,250 per year in student-loan debt.

One interesting finding is that students at Phoenix, on average, take out $8,504 in loans, which ranks second among colleges in the analysis. However, Phoenix has the lowest tuition of the six, at $10,756, or nearly $3,000 less than any other college in our analysis.

It might be important to take the student-loan-debt figure with a grain of salt, considering that it excludes debt from private lenders. Also, keep in mind that the student-loan figure is based on one year’s worth of student debt.

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