Higher Education
4:21 pm
Mon May 7, 2012

For-Profit, Online Schools Enroll Large Number of Students

For the first time, Kentucky has released enrollment numbers for online and for-profit colleges and the results are surprising to the Council on Post-Secondary Education.

“I did not realize that it was enrolling about as many students as our traditional independent institutions we look at,” said Heidi Hiemstra, the council’s vice president of research.

Institutions like the University of Phoenix and Sullivan University enrolled nearly 33,000 students in Kentucky, according to 2011 estimates from the council. Kentucky’s independent colleges and universities, which includes Bellarmine and Spalding universities,  enrolled around 37,000 students. This group, had the most growth in the past year at 5 percent.

Public university enrollment grew 1 percent and community and technical schools grew 2 percent.

Schools like Bellarmine have been focusing on new graduate degrees, which helps explain the 179 percent enrollment growth over the past decade, while public university enrollment grew 12 percent, said Heimstra.

“We knew that some of our four years that we have been tracking for a while, especially Bellarmine, have really been expanding those graduate programs. That is a growth area that a number of those institutions have been pursuing,” she said.

Bellarmine officials told Kentucky Public Radio they’ve been focused on attracting students to graduate programs.

Larger public schools, like the Universities of Louisville and Kentucky, still have almost four times the amount of students enrolled in graduate programs with 25,000.