Earlier this month, the National Review posted a guest column from Neal McCluskey, the associate director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the public policy research organization The Cato Institute, titled simply enough “In Defense of For-Profit Colleges.”

In the piece, Mr. McCluskey outlines various reasons why attacks on for-profit colleges are biased and misguided. Regular readers of our own blog will undoubtedly have a sense of déjà vu reading them, as he makes points that we have touched on here ourselves. In commenting on completion rates at for-profit (proprietary) colleges versus public ones, he writes:

…When you compare for-profits with public colleges with noncompetitive admissions — the schools most likely dealing with similar types of students — for-profits equal or outperform them.

The six-year graduation rate for open-enrollment public schools is the same as for proprietary four-year programs: 32 percent. For African Americans, the for-profits beat their competition. Twenty-one percent at for-profits completed their programs within six years, compared with 18 percent at open-admissions public institutions.

The numbers are starker when you look at two-year institutions. For-profits see 63 percent of students complete within 150 percent of the time a program is supposed to take. For public two-year institutions, the figure is a minuscule 20 percent. Among African Americans, the difference is 53 percent to 11 percent.

There are problems with these data — they include only first-time, full-time students who finish at the institution where they started — but they are the best available, and at the very least they strongly suggest that for-profits do as good a job or better of moving their types of students to graduation than do public colleges.

Mr. McCluskey makes a compelling argument, and we encourage everyone to read the piece in its entirety.

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