The other face of proprietary education - comments from a private for-profit college president

Thu, 08/13/2015

I have been with The College of Westchester since 1982.  I have been the President of CW since November 2014, and have always loved working at the college and helping the thousands of students who start classes with us and graduate and go on to bright futures.

Recently, I have been disturbed with discussions about for-profit education and the need to serve shareholders.  Let me tell you a little bit about CW, and how we differ from publicly traded for-profit educational institutions. 

We are small, privately held, and do not answer to shareholders. We answer to our board of trustees.  We are regionally accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the same commission that oversees higher educational excellence for all of our sister schools in the states of Washington, DC, Delaware, Florida, US Virgin Islands, New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania.  We also have a double layer of oversight through the New York State Education Department and the New York State Board of Regents, a gold standard for educational excellence.  All programs and our ability to continue to operate depend on New York approving our continued programs and educational excellence.  It is a rigorous process but we accept it as only excellent colleges survive in New York.  We are different than trade and technical schools in New York.  They exist through a different licensing process.

We offer associate and bachelors degrees.  We are not huge.  Typically, we have about 1000 students and graduate about 400, a 43% graduation rate based on our associate degree rate.  Most of our students are students of need, and we graduate students at about four times that of the local community college.  Read a bit about us on the National Center for Education Statistic website.

I hear so many varied ideas of what a "for-profit" college does, and who it serves, and what it "spends its money on". What makes us different from not-for-profit and public institutions is that we do not have an endowment.  We do not draw down on an endowment to meet our budget.  We do not have any direct federal or state funding.  Our college is sustained solely by tuition. 

Our students who are eligible for state and federal grants can choose to attend our college, if they meet standards of progress through maintaining their grades.  We also give most of our students our own grants through the college.  Many of our students are students of need.  When I say that students have need, there are students with profound financial need, and many others who need a leg up financially.  We financially support almost every single student through scholarships, through our small CW Charitable Foundation, and in many other non-financial ways.  This is how we "spend our money".

 At CW, you will find that 100% of our students declare a major before entering college.  If we do not have the program of study that a student wants, they choose another college.  There are no undeclared students at CW.  CW does not promise employment in field to any student, but we place the vast majority of students in jobs in their field of study within 0-12 months of graduation.  Many students get snatched up while they are still in college, during their internships.  Many CW grads continue their studies and many stay within the New York area.

Every single major is constructed with the assistance not only of expert faculty, and with direct input from experts within the industries, companies and organizations who will then employ our graduates.

CW Programs have changed over the years as the job market changes.  We have a traditional campus that most of our students attend, as well as a small, strong online division.

CW has a 100 year history of excellence.  We are 100 years old this year, 2015. 

As the president of this small but excellent institution, I believe I speak for our faculty and staff as I say we embrace the next 100 years of serving students.  It is that simple.  Let one of our graduates, who I personally met in his high school classroom when he was a high school sophomore, tell you a bit more.

Posted by: 
Mary Beth Del Balzo, CW President