SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

Are There Any Good For-Profit Colleges? Top 8 For-Profit Colleges


For-profit colleges have a pretty poor reputation in the academic world—and generally for good reason. But are there any good for-profit colleges out there that aren't as bad as the rest? Should you ever consider going to one?

In this guide, we introduce the top for-profit colleges, which we determined based on factors such as graduation rate, net cost of attendance, and student reviews. We also go over the biggest pros and cons of attending a for-profit college. But first, let's look a little more closely at what for-profit schools actually are and how they work.


Briefly: What Is a For-Profit College?

A for-profit college is a privately owned school that's run exactly like a business: it's managed by a group of shareholders who make all the decisions for their school and who aim to turn a profit no matter what—often even at the expense of students.

For-profit colleges are typically career- and technical-focused since these programs provide the schools with the highest revenue. This also means that any programs that fail to make a profit will be changed or cut completely.

Basically, all for-profit colleges—even top for-profit colleges—prioritize making money over the needs of their students. This is one of the main reasons people are so wary of these schools.

Besides the fact that for-profit schools place more emphasis on money than they do on the quality of their academics, they are also known for having many run-ins with the law (especially fraud and deceit accusations), charging students high tuition rates, and offering credits that won't transfer to nonprofit schools.

For more info on for-profit colleges and how they work, check out our guide.

Here at PrepScholar, we don't normally advise going to a for-profit college. But for some, a for-profit college might work well for them and their career goals.

This leads us to a couple of questions: are there any good for-profit colleges out there? And what are the best for-profit colleges?


Introducing the Top 8 For-Profit Colleges

Although there aren't many good for-profit colleges, some are better than others in terms of the quality of education they offer, how satisfied students are with their academic experiences, how reasonable tuition rates are, and how likely you are to find a well-paying job after graduation.

We looked at every four-year for-profit college in the US to come up with a list of the eight best for-profit colleges.

We made our selections primarily using the following criteria:

  • Niche grade: This is the overall grade (A+ to F) given to a school, as determined by student rankings for qualities such as campus, value, student life, professors, academics, and so on

  • Graduation rate: The percentage of students who completed their program at the school; the higher the graduation rate, the more likely that school made it onto our list

  • Net price: The total average cost of attendance per year, minus any grants or scholarships

  • Median salary: The median income of alumni within six years after graduation

  • Employment rate: The percentage of graduates working within two years after graduation

Here are the eight best for-profit colleges (listed in alphabetical order). Note that these top for-profit colleges are not ranked.

School Niche Grade Graduation Rate Net Price Per Year Median Salary Employment Rate
DigiPen Institute of Technology B+ 53% $36,832 $80,200 91%
ECPI University B- 43% $22,072 $34,600 88%
Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising B- 72% $41,766 $37,200 88%
LIM College C+ 53% $37,470 $48,900 91%
Monroe College B+ 62% $12,330 $30,300 87%
Stanbridge University B+ 65% $24,969 86%
Strayer University A- 50% $21,585 $45,900 85%
West Coast University: Los Angeles B+ 38% $44,867 $54,900 94%


Let's take a closer look at these top for-profit colleges, one by one.

Note that for each for-profit college listed, we offer a few comparable options for nonprofit schools you could attend instead.


body_digipen_institute_technologyDigiPen Institute of Technology (Shuichi Aizawa/Flickr)


DigiPen Institute of Technology — Redmond, WA

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 979
  • Acceptance Rate: 38%
  • Programs: Video Game Design, Digital Art and Animation, Music and Sound Design, Computer Science, Computer Engineering

Ranked within the top five schools on our list of the best video game design schools, DigiPen has one of the highest Niche grades (an overall B+) of all four-year, for-profit schools, indicating that the majority of students are extremely satisfied with their experiences here, especially regarding the quality of  academics (B+), student life (B), and location (B+) of this tech school.

While the net cost of attendance is a bit steep at $36,832 per year, DigiPen is one of the few for-profit schools at which graduates typically go on to earn a solid sum of money. The median salary of DigiPen graduates six years after graduation is $80,200—that's thousands of dollars more than any other for-profit school! In addition, 91% of graduates are employed within two years.

Although we almost always recommend nonprofit schools over for-profit colleges, this might be a rare case in which attending a for-profit college could be a great idea, especially if you're planning to make a career out of game design.


Similar Nonprofit Schools

  • University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA) — A prestigious private university that offers numerous game design and animation degrees and is in a central urban location close to many companies

  • Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, NY) — Its cooperative education program lets you get hands-on training and professional experience while earning your game design degree

  • New York University (New York, NY) — NYU's video game design department is housed within the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts. It boasts a one-of-a-kind game center incubator program that helps fund and launch indie games. 


ECPI University — Virginia Beach, VA

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 13,869
  • Acceptance Rate: 80%
  • Programs: Information Technology, Engineering Technology, Nursing, Health Sciences, Criminal Justice, Culinary Arts, Business

Compared to other for-profit colleges, ECPI has a somewhat better reputation, which shows in its higher student satisfaction. This for-profit school has an overall B- grade on Niche and a pretty high employment rate for recent grads: 88%.

ECPI is well known for its information technology program, which we've included as an honorable mention on our list of the best IT schools in the country. ECPI is based in Virginia Beach, but it has campuses all around Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. It even offers many programs entirely online.

The net price isn't cheap, but it's still lower than that of many other for-profit colleges at $22,072. ECPI shines brightest when it comes to its IT and culinary arts degree offerings, so if you're hoping to study something outside these two fields, such as business or nursing, you'd be better off choosing a nonprofit school or a school that specializes in that particular major.


Similar Nonprofit Schools

  • New Jersey Institute of Technology (Newark, NJ) — A public school with tons of degree options and concentrations for those interested in IT

  • Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago, IL) — A private college offering 11 unique concentrations for those majoring in IT and Management

  • Johnson & Wales University (Multiple Campuses) — A private, career-focused university with a variety of undergraduate culinary degrees, some of which you can do entirely online


body_fidm_fashion_showFIDM fashion show from 2013 (Katie O'Donnell via WEBN-TV/Flickr)


Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising — Los Angeles, CA

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,984
  • Acceptance Rate: 36%
  • Programs: Apparel Technical Design, Business Management, Design, Digital Media, Fashion Knitwear Design, Graphic Design, Interior Design, Professional Studies, Social Media

FIDM is a well regarded for-profit college due to its concentrated focus on fashion and design—one of the few institutions to specialize in these fields. Aside from its high B- overall grade on Niche, FIDM received an A+ in Diversity an an A in Location.

Furthermore, the fashion school has one of the higher graduation rates of for-profit colleges (72%) and an impressive 88% employment rate for graduates. Unfortunately, FIDM also has one of the highest net costs for a for-profit college. This fact, combined with graduates' median salary of just $37,200, means you'll need to think extra hard about whether this price is worth it to you in the end.


Similar Nonprofit Schools


LIM College — New York, NY

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,164
  • Acceptance Rate: 84%
  • Programs: Fashion Media, Fashion Merchandising, Fashion Merchandising & Management, International Business, Management, Marketing, Visual Studies

Like FIDM, LIM College is a for-profit school focused exclusively on fashion and related topics, such as design, business, and merchandising.

At LIM, which earned a B- overall on Niche, 91% of graduates are employed within two years. In addition, graduates go on to make a median salary of $48,900—that's more than $10,000 higher than the median salary for FIDM alumni. Students strongly value the central, metropolitan location of the school, awarding it an A+ on Niche.

The net cost per year of attending LIM is pretty high for a for-profit college at around $37,470. And because students rated the value of their education here a C- and the dorms a D-, we think that it's worth it to take some time to weigh all your options before committing to this school.


Similar Nonprofit Schools

  • Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, NY) — One of the highest-ranked fashion schools, with tons of fashion-oriented concentrations

  • Parsons—The New School (New York, NY) — Home to the Parsons School of Fashion and a top-ranked fashion program

  • Marist College (Poughkeepsie, NY) — Offers a well-rounded fashion program with a focus on real-world experience through internships


body_monroe_collegeMonroe College (Oseymour/Wikimedia Commons)


Monroe College — Bronx, NY

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 4,162
  • Acceptance Rate: 49%
  • Programs: Health Services Administration, Accounting, Sports Management, Criminal Justice, Hospitality Management, Early Childhood Education, Computer Information Systems, Nursing, and more

Monroe College offers students a very wide array of undergraduate majors in fields such as health, business, education, and IT. The for-profit college currently has a B+ grade on Niche and a solid 87% employment rate for recent grads.

What's nice about Monroe is that it has the lowest net cost of all top for-profit colleges on this list at just $12,330 a year. The median salary for alumni here, however, is only $30,300—also the lowest of the schools on this list.


Similar Nonprofit Schools

  • Hunter College (New York, NY) — A popular public college based in New York City offering many majors


Stanbridge University — Irvine, CA

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 1,508
  • Acceptance Rate: 35%
  • Programs: Nursing

Given a B+ on Niche, the for-profit college Stanbridge offers a bachelor's degree in nursing (as well as associate and graduate degrees in several other fields).

It's got a graduation rate of 65%, and, according to Niche, most students here believe the value of the education they received was worth the price, even though the net cost is a bit steeper at $24,969. Stanbridge also has a solid employment rate of 86%.

Unfortunately, no salary information was available for this school, so it's tricky to say whether the price of the education here is worth it in terms of how much money you can ultimately expect to make after getting a degree from Stanbridge.


Similar Nonprofit Schools

  • UC Irvine (Irvine, CA) — A top public school also based in Irvine, with a renowned and highly competitive nursing program
  • Cal State Fullerton (Fullerton, CA) — A public California-based school that offers online, traditional, and accelerated nursing program options
  • Cal State Long Beach (Long Beach, CA) — Home to a premier undergrad nursing program that also offers an accelerated option


body_strayer_universityMorrisville, NC, campus of Strayer University (Ildar Sagdejev {Specious}/Wikimedia Commons)


Strayer University — Washington, DC

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 339
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Programs: Accounting, Business Administration, Management, Criminal Justice, Information Technology

Strayer University is an online college system based in Washington, DC, and with many campuses spread across the southeast.

Although most students earn their degrees entirely online, some campuses offer a combination of online and traditional in-person classes, the latter of which usually take place in the evenings or on weekends to accommodate students' busy schedules.

Students on Niche gave high grades to the DC campus (A), its overall location (A+), and its student life (A). In addition, Strayer has an employment rate of 85% and a pretty good (for a for-profit school) median salary of $45,900.

Arguably one of the biggest issues is that students didn't find much value in their education, giving Strayer's value an overall grade of a B. The net cost is $21,585, which is a bit pricey for a for-profit college as well. Perhaps the biggest issue is the very low graduation rate (50%).


Similar Nonprofit Schools

  • Penn State World Campus (University Park, PA) — Premier distance-learning branch of Penn State, with nearly 50 online bachelor's degree programs available
  • Northeastern University (Boston, MA) — A private university providing nearly 200 options for online degrees through its highly regarded distance-learning branch


West Coast University: Los Angeles — Los Angeles, CA

  • Undergraduate Enrollment: 2,144
  • Acceptance Rate: 100%
  • Programs: Nursing

Like Stanbridge, West Coast University: Los Angeles only offers a bachelor's in nursing, making this a very specialized for-profit school. The school has an overall B+ grade on Niche with good reviews of its student life (B), value (B), and location (A).

One commendable aspect of WCU is that it's one of the few for-profit schools to provide need-based and merit-based scholarships to incoming students. At present, the school has one of the highest employment rates of for-profit colleges (94%) and also offers a fairly high median salary of $54,900.

However, WCU's low graduation rate (38%) and high net cost ($44,867) are some cons you'll need to consider before applying here.


Similar Nonprofit Schools

  • UCLA (Los Angeles, CA) — A world-class public university offering one of the most recognized traditional nursing programs in the country
  • Cal State Fullerton (Fullerton, CA) — A public California-based school that offers online, traditional, and accelerated nursing program options

  • Cal State Long Beach (Long Beach, CA) — Home to a premier undergrad nursing program that also offers an accelerated option



Pros and Cons of Attending Top For-Profit Colleges

While some for-profit colleges are clearly better than others, in general most for-profit colleges are still a risk that we don't advise taking. Here are the main pros and cons of attending a for-profit school, even one of the "best" for-profit colleges listed above.


Pros of Attending a Top For-Profit College

  • You can get your degree faster. Many top for-profit colleges let you earn your bachelor's degree in fewer than three years, saving you both time and money in the long run.
  • More flexible class options are available. Because for-profit colleges typically cater to nontraditional students, they tend to offer a better array of class schedule options, including evening classes, online programs, and weekend classes.
  • You can get more focused professional training. Most programs at for-profit colleges are highly career-centered, providing you with more direct hands-on training and concentrating less on general education.


Cons of Attending a Top For-Profit College

  • Their reputation is not good. No matter how "good" a for-profit college might seem, there is no denying that the reputation of these schools is really not great. It's not shocking for people to readily accuse them of being scams and money-hungry businesses.
  • They're often involved in lawsuits. This is part of the reason that the reputation of so many for-profit colleges is so bad. Problems with the law are not at all rare for these schools, which are often sued by former students for things like deceit and fraud.
  • You'll likely be left with a ton of debt. Because for-profit colleges prioritize revenue above all else, they won't hesitate to raise tuition costs and effectively force their students to take out loads of loans. Tuition at for-profit colleges is on average $8,000 a year more than that at public universities.
  • Your credits might not transfer. If you're hoping to transfer any credits you've earned from a for-profit college to a nonprofit school, be aware that this can be really hard (or impossible) to do, as many nonprofit schools simply do not recognize for-profit credits.
  • Your degree might not be recognized. Similar to the situation with credits, your own degree might not be recognized by other institutions or potential employers, so think carefully about whether it'll be worth going to a for-profit college, even one of the best for-profit colleges.


Recap: Are the "Best" For-Profit Colleges Worth Attending?

For-profit colleges are run like businesses, prioritizing money and revenue over the quality of the education they offer. This fact, combined with high tuition rates, controversial lawsuits, and non-transferrable credits, is why so many people look down on these schools, even the supposed best for-profit colleges.

But for some, a for-profit college could offer what they need in terms of additional career training and a small boost toward their professional goals.

Based on our extensive research of four-year, for-profit schools, we've determined that the top for-profit colleges are as follows (listed in alphabetical order):

  • DigiPen Institute of Technology
  • ECPI University
  • Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising
  • LIM College
  • Monroe College
  • Stanbridge University
  • Strayer University
  • West Coast University: Los Angeles

Before you commit to one of these top for-profit colleges, be aware of the biggest pros and cons of going to a for-profit school. Although attending a for-profit school can mean getting your degree in less time and having better options for schedules, it can also mean being forced to pay high tuition costs, getting credits that won't transfer, and earning a degree that isn't recognized anywhere else.

Ultimately, while it's almost always better to attend a nonprofit school—public schools are often cheaper than for-profit colleges anyway!—it's up to you to make the best decision for yourself.


What's Next?

Want to see more for-profit colleges? Then check out our complete list of all four-year, for-profit colleges in the US. We also explain the major difference between for-profit colleges and private nonprofit colleges.

If you're looking to specialize in a particular trade, try reading this guide to what trade schools are and how they work.

Worried about being able to get into college? Consider applying to test-optional schools or any of these schools with 100% admission rates. This way you're sure to get that degree you want!



Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!

author image
Hannah Muniz
About the Author

Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.

Get Free Guides to Boost Your SAT/ACT
100% Privacy. No spam ever.

Ask a Question Below

Have any questions about this article or other topics? Ask below and we'll reply!