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This fall an estimated 19.7 million students are expected to enter colleges or universities to study towards their degrees. These institutes of higher learning offer a wealth of opportunity to receive job training, to build critical thinking skills, and to prepare students to pursue their passions and careers.

When getting started on this journey, however, students must determine which of the countless schools they want to attend. Schools of all sizes, each with a number of program options, can be found throughout the country.

For students preparing to make this momentous decision, they are likely to come across two types of institutions in their search, namely for-profit and not-for-profit schools. They may wonder about the differences, whether one particular type of school offers more advantages for their education and future career prospects. Understanding how these types of schools differ, as well as their similarities, can help students make the best decision possible.

What are the goals of for-profit and not-for-profit colleges?

Both types of schools have a common goal: They want to help students receive the education they need to thrive in their chosen careers. Both types of schools work to recruit some of the best minds in the industry to provide invigorating classes that encourage students to think and expand their horizons. They help to create an educated population that is excited about learning and ready to embrace what the world has to offer.

To educate students, both types of schools will also offer a number of interesting and empowering degrees. The precise degrees offered by a particular school differ based on the programs of studies they offer students, but most will have multiple opportunities for undergraduate study; many will also offer graduate study programs.

At both for-profit and not-for-profit schools, students may also have the opportunity to participate in research, lectures, labs, seminars, and countless other learning opportunities that will help them grow as people and professionals, even outside of the classroom. Students also often find mentors and have the ability to network with other students, forming relationships that can help guide the rest of their careers.

Can I get a job with a degree from a for-profit or not-for-profit school?

As you already understand that both types of schools work to educate their students and prepare them for their futures, then it follows that both typically offer the degree programs necessary to qualify for different career paths.

When a school is accredited, it indicates that a school has gone through peer evaluation that includes a review of the school’s programming in all areas of operation to validate they are complying with rigorous standards set by the accrediting agency.  It also means these are the kinds of quality degree credentials that can help open doors of opportunity for your future.

The institutional accreditation process examines the educational institution—university, college or school—as a whole. It looks into everything from learning modalities and instructor credentials to learning outcomes and student support services. And that’s only scratching the surface of what these agencies do to ensure the quality of education and institution has to offer. There are also site visits, reviews for marketing practices, evaluations on tuition rates, analysis of educational materials, and more.

There are also programmatic accreditations, awarded often from a programmatic accrediting agency with expertise in the relevant industry. These agencies closely examine material covered throughout a degree program and the expectations of students in order to graduate from the program. If this material meets the expectations of the accrediting body, then the degree itself may receive a respected accreditation.

There are a number of high-quality schools, both for-profit and not-for-profit, that offer both institutional accreditation and programmatic accreditation for certain degree programs.

Reputable for-profit institutions, like Post University, are subject to the same rules and regulations as not-for-profit schools. This means that their policies, academic oversight, faculty credentials, the administrative organization of the campus, and even the athletic programs function in the same way across both types of schools.

A degree from an accredited learning institution tells employers you’ve completed a quality program in the specific field cited on your degree credential from a quality educator.

Can I get student loans and financial aid to help pay for my degree at for-profit or not-for-profit schools?

With the price of higher education today, most students preparing to enter a degree or diploma program will need to secure some financial aid to afford the degree. While many schools offer scholarships or other types of aid for their students that qualify, you can also get student loans from various financial institutions.

You can apply for student loans and a variety of forms of financial aid to help you pay for your degree at both for-profit and not-for-profit schools. With this kind of financing flexibility, you typically have more freedom to select the school that best meets your individual needs and plans.

So, what is the difference between a for-profit and a not-for-profit college or university?

As it becomes clear how similar both types of schools are, it can leave many students wondering what, precisely, is the difference between a for-profit and a not-for-profit school?

The core difference between these two types of schools lies in how they are funded—the source of income that helps keep the doors open, instructors paid, and the lights on. Non-profit schools receive funding from the state and other income-producing mechanisms like endowments and donations. They then receive tax-exempt status because they have restrictions about how they can invest the profits they generate throughout the year.

On the other hand, for-profit schools receive funding from private investors and do not have as many restrictions on how they can invest their money. Therefore, they do not carry a tax-exempt status.

How do I decide between a for-profit and a not-for-profit school?

Given the similarities between these two types of institutions, it is no wonder that many people find the question challenging.

The best place to start is by examining your own goals and motivations for returning to school. Think about what will impact your ability to study and the type of program you want to see. Consider, for example, the flexibility of online classes that might make it easier for you to have a job and study at the same time. Make note of the degree types that you will need to take the next step in your chosen field.

Once you have the type of program you want to pursue and the educational environment you want, experience—such as online, in-person, or a hybrid school option—you can begin to explore the available degree programs, which will lead you to the perfect school for you, be it for-profit or not-for-profit.

At Post University, we offer students a range of academic opportunities at both undergraduate and graduate levels. For over 100 years, we have sought to provide students with a high-quality education that will prepare them to excel. If you want to learn more about what sets Post apart and explore the doors that our degrees can open for our dedicated students, come and visit us online at today. We look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly!