In 2012, I wrote a piece on the future of higher education for a journal called Renewing Minds. With regard to the for-profit colleges, I made the following prediction with some advice:
Contrary to expectations, the institutions that will come under the greatest pressure will ultimately not be the traditional schools (though they will have to grapple with change). The greatest pressure will apply to the entities currently believed to be the wave of the future, which are the (for profit) online programs. If you are considering a long term financial investment in the University of Phoenix or one of its competitors, I would urge you to go elsewhere with your funds.
Within the last month, we have seen the closure of two large entities of the type I describe: Corinthian Colleges and the Anthem system. The reason is simple. They were able to make a great deal of money when they had little competition in the convenient “class in your pajamas” market, but they could not survive when the more established names entered the market. Given a choice, would you take an online degree from Corinthian College or from Florida State University? The answer is clear. The higher ed brand names have figured out the vulnerability of the for profit players and are gearing up rapidly to exploit it.