Campus Technology writer John K. Waters made a compelling argument this week about the strength for-profit colleges have in utilizing technology. While the for-profit education industry has been under fire over the past year on other issues, its use of technology in education is indisputably ahead of that of traditional, not-for-profit colleges, allowing for-profit schools to connect with students more personally, keep them well-informed, and offer learning tools that fit students’ needs.
According to Waters, for-profit institutions spend an average 10% of their operating budget on technology, while not-for-profits spend only an average 3%. But the difference isn’t just how much technology the for-profits use; it’s also the way they use it.
Waters quoted Ruki Jayaraman, dean of the College of Undergraduate Studies at for-profit Argosy University, as saying, "The way we use technology supports a kind of academic agility. We implement technology quickly and effectively, and, perhaps more importantly, we abandon it when it no longer serves us."
Charles Flader, executive director for academic technology at for-profit Kaplan University, told Waters, “Our students are pushing us all the time, demanding that they get the same technology experiences here that they get in other parts of their lives. We spend a lot to make sure they get that.”
Technology has made it possible for for-profit institutions to offer students the flexibility that the institutions are known for. Kaplan’s Flader told Waters, "The idea that everyone is going to be able to physically attend a traditional, brick-and-mortar institution for two or four years, full-time, doesn't reflect the reality of modern life. Our students have jobs, families, lots of demand on their time."
But an increasing number of students at not-for-profit colleges also have jobs, families, and heavy demands on their time, and not-for-profit colleges may need to take a cue from the for-profits in the ways they implement technology as a more consistent, over-arching part of students’ education.