The Program for Research on Private Higher Education
Dedicated to Building Knowledge about Private Higher Education around the World
WP No.5

The For-Profit Sector: U.S. Patterns and International Echoes in Higher Education


Kinser, Kevin and Levy, Daniel C. (2005)  "The For-Profit Sector: U.S. Patterns and International Echoes in Higher Education." PROPHE Working Paper No.5. Reprinted as: Kinser, K. & Levy, D.C. (2006). The For-Profit Sector: U.S. Patterns and International Echoes in Higher Education. In working paper series of the National Center on Privatization, Teacher's College. Retrieved from


Analyses of private higher education should consider the increasingly important for-profit sector in many countries. Yet information on the for-profit sector has been quite limited. Even in the United States, where for-profit higher education is well-established, only recently have researchers turned their attention to studying its scope and impacts. While the growth of the for-profit sector is influenced by many of the same forces that have encouraged the global expansion of private higher education, including commercialization and privatization beyond higher education, the focus here is on identifying the international dimensions of for-profit higher education and defining its main types. We feature U.S. data and patterns as starting points for an international portrait. We outline the legal and regulatory aspects for-profit institutions, and note their often ambiguous status in many countries. And we propose a tentative classification of the for-profit sector based on the U.S. experience, beginning to apply it to the international context. Generally, while emphasizing the diversity of the sector, we highlight several tendencies of for-profit institutions of higher education that seem to hold in international analyses.

Date Published:
Feb 2005