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For Profit or Non Profit: Which Business School Should You Attend?

Congratulations on deciding to apply for business school. Now comes the hard part: deciding where to apply. Non-profit or for-profit? How to decide? Let's take a closer look.

Jun 24, 2018
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For Profit or Non Profit: Which Business School Should You Attend?

Congratulations on deciding to apply for medical school. Now comes the hard part: deciding where to apply.

Maybe you're looking for a career change or a leg up in any field. Perhaps you're trying to lead in your chosen field. Maybe you want to increase your earning power and start your own business. Or maybe you just like business and want to expand your skill set.

Whatever the reason, deciding to go to business school wasn't an easy decision to make. You have one more hurdle before you go, though.

There's one major difference in business schools that you need to consider: for-profit or non-profit.

Let's take a closer look at the difference between the two:

Non-profit business schools

Focus on education

The sole purpose of a non-profit business school is your education. Profits don't supersede education at non-profit business schools. Your education is front and center.

On a non-profit campus, students can join clubs, find mentors and tutors, and have a personalized experience focused solely on your education.

There's no business incentive at a non-profit school. There's only the incentive for your education.

Since there's no focus on earning revenue or pleasing shareholders, non-profit schools are also generally less expensive.


Degree options are much more affordable for students at non-profit schools. Non-profit schools receive funding from governments and private donors and work hard to keep costs reasonable for students.

While some programs are more expensive than others, it's also much easier to secure scholarships and other funding for non-profit schools.

For-profit business schools

More flexible curriculum

Because for-profit schools have a revenue stream, they can offer a great variety of class formats and locations. Students can take classes online, evening, or on weekends, and many for-profit schools have campuses spread across multiple states.

Their curriculum is generally more career-oriented, with less of a focus on liberal arts and humanities, which you're more likely to find at a non-profit school.


Because for-profits need to turn a profit for success, they're often expensive--and sometimes limited in terms of the types of loans you can secure.

You should be wary of schools that charge large sums of money and it's not clear what the outcome is.

What you should look for

There are lots of options out there and you need to make the best choice for your needs. You may end up at a non-profit school, or a for-profit one.

Either way, you should look for these three things:

1. Accreditation

Whatever you do, make sure your school is accredited by a respected accrediting body.

There are six regional higher accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education: Middle States Commission on Higher Education, New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Higher Learning Commission, Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and Western Association of Schools and Colleges. These accreditation apply to both non-profit and for-profit schools.

For MBA programs look for accreditations from AACSB, AMBA, and EQUIS.

2. Cost

Affordability is key to your MBA. If you have to take out loans, be sure that you'll be able to pay them back in a way that will work for you.

Non-profit schools will generally cost less money than for-profit ones.

Confused? Before you accept any offer, meet with the school's financial aid office to get a clear picture of your prospective financial commitments.

If no one is willing to do this with you, you may be better off saying no.

3. Alumni Employability

Getting a job after you graduate is a big deal--and a necessary one. Find out employment data. If graduates are getting great jobs that pay well right after graduation, then consider it.

It the only evidence you can find is anecdotal, think twice. You should be able to find this data at a students services or career office. It should be readily available, even if it's not as positive as you'd like to see.

If you can't find out? Skip it. Not a good fit.

Learn more about MBAs in Business.

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