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For-Profit Education Whisper

Research Question: When will enrollments at for-profit colleges pick up and which schools will lead the turnaround?

Companies: Apollo Group (APOL), Bridgepoint Education (BPI), Career Education (CECO), Corinthian Colleges (COCO), Capella Education (CPLA), DeVry (DV), Education Management (EDMC), Grand Canyon Education (LOPE) & Others


Blueshift’s initial research on for-profit colleges indicates lower enrollments continue amid heightened scrutiny, though several schools are taking unique approaches to attracting new students, with at least one success story.


  1. A Blueshift primary interview with the vice president of operations for for-profit universities at an enrollment consulting firm revealed that low enrollments have continued this summer. The number of new students beginning classes at his clients’ schools came in below expectations, including 50% fewer starts than expected in some cases.
  2. For-profit education has suffered from lower enrollment in 2012 due to heightened criticism over students graduating with too much debt and too few job opportunities. New federal regulations that force for-profit schools to toughen enrollment guidelines are also hampering enrollment growth. Additionally, the emergence of new, high-profile ventures like Coursera that offer free online courses featuring professors from elite universities could negatively affect enrollment at for-profit colleges.
  3. Unlike the majority of for-profit colleges, Grand Canyon University is seeing enrollment growth with 44,000 students expected in the fall, up from 39,500 last year. The school’s lower tuition and smaller class sizes are credited for the spike in enrollment and may be the necessary formula to combat falling student numbers.
  4. To counter falling enrollments, Corinthian Colleges is expanding programs focused on helping students get their GED, with the hope that the students will then enroll in college courses with Corinthian.
To gain further insight into enrollment trends at for-profit colleges and determine which schools are best positioned for an enrollment turnaround, Blueshift will gather data and issue a market research report from sources in the following areas: industry specialists, employees at for-profit schools, students at for-profit schools, and employees at non-profit schools.