For years there have been debates about the validity and value of for-profit schools, that is, schools that are operated by private, profit-seeking businesses. On the one hand, these institutions provide international learning opportunities to students who could never afford or access another means of higher education. On the other, many are concerned that these schools are focused more on their investors and profit margin than the actual service they are providing. Some commonly known for-profit schools include Kaplan University, The Art Institutes, the University of Phoenix, and Laureate International Universities.

Laureate is backed by supporters like Bill Clinton, Henry R. Kravis, and Paul Allen.

Laureate is backed by supporters like Bill Clinton, Henry R. Kravis, and Paul Allen.
Image: JStone /

Laureate is famously backed by former President Bill Clinton, whom the company employs as its honorary chancellor. His face is instantly recognizable, and that kind of endorsement has garnered Laureate Education an immense amount of international success. Laureate is also backed by some of the biggest names in finance, including Henry R. Kravis, Steve Cohen, Paul Allen, and George Soros, who have invested millions of dollars into the company’s efforts to expand education internationally.

One major concern with for-profit schools is that they are more focused on generating a profit than with providing quality programs to the hundreds of thousands of people who cannot access education any other way. As Paulo Guedes, chairman of Rio-based Bozano Investimentos says, “Education is the industry of the future,” of the way in which for-profit higher education institutions are operating much more like businesses than places that promote learning.

This is not to say that all for-profit education institutions are operating solely at the expense of those who seek their services. For many people, a traditional four-year college education is simply not feasible, or affordable, and for-profit institutions are able to fill that gap by being more flexible, cost-effective, and accessible. Financial advisor and author Kiara Ashanti explains,

“Whether a school is for-profit or non-profit isn’t as important as whether it has the program you want, regional accreditation, and financial stability. What distinguishes for-profit schools from traditional schools is that, like any business, they must respond to the needs of the marketplace. If you need to go back to school, but have bills and a family to tend to, attending a for-profit school is likely right for you. The flexibility and technology allow you to work and travel, yet never miss a class session.”

Indeed, while for-profit schools such as those operated by Laureate Education are businesses, they still offer much more accessible educational opportunities for many people, that traditional nonprofit colleges and universities simply don’t.

Learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of for-profit schooling here.