The For-Profit Library? What Libraries and Learning Resource Centers Bring to the For-Profit College

I have worked in a for-profit college library for nearly four years. Taking the job was nerve racking for me originally. A for-profit college? But I was excited to observe the school’s commitment to integrity and to its students. And it is inspiring to see the difference this education can make in the life of a student.

Proprietary, or for-profit, colleges have been in the news recently, and anyone associated with the field of education probably has an opinion about them. Yet you rarely hear about the colleges’ libraries or resource centers, which often operate on the literal and metaphorical peripheries of the institutions.  However, libraries at these schools provide amazing resources to the schools and the students.

My institution focuses on associate degrees and diploma/certificate programs. Proprietary colleges often offer several types of degrees, and accreditation varies by school. Each college functions differently;  the ideas I share here are from my professional experience. Any attempt to group all for-profit colleges (or their libraries) together would be ineffective, and as a matter of fact if your experience is different I would love to know about it – contact me directly. I welcome reading about your experiences too.

What does the library provide a for-profit college? ROI, or return on investment. Sadly, libraries in proprietary colleges are sometimes seen as black holes where lots of money goes in but not much comes out. This is false. We provide so much to our students and by extension the school’s administration. I could talk forever about every service we provide but in this article I’m going to focus on just three: remedial studies, tutoring and information literacy.

Students who enroll at proprietary colleges were often considered at-risk high school students. are generally thought to have been at risk students prior to graduation from high school. They might come from families that didn’t value education, or perhaps they just never had an opportunity to show their potential. As a result, our library assists many students in remedial studies. Some lack basic English and math skills. Many students who possess online social skills (checking email or Facebook) never learned to use word processing programs. A student who does not learn these basic skills is will not succeed in college. The library, in helping students learn the skills, helps the school retain those students. Thus, remedial aid is an excellent return on investment.

In addition to offering remedial aid, our libraries provide tutoring for our academic majors. Need help with your anatomy and physiology class? Sign up for tutoring in the library. Trying to figure out how to type up that legal brief? Tutoring is available in the library. Preparing for an exam in your aesthetics class? You guessed it: tutoring can be found in the library. Tutoring increases a student’s chances at academic success. And academic success increases a student’s chances at completing school, which in turn increases the school’s sustainability, which leads us to – return on investment.

Finally, and most importantly, the library teaches information literacy skills. The curriculum at technical for-profit colleges is purposely trim. The mission is to train for technical skills that will lead the student to employment. A training program that only lasts six quarters (12 weeks/quarter) doesn’t leave a lot of time for extra assistance in the classroom. Yet in the library, students learn a little bit about information literacy every time they ask a question. Every interaction with a student is an opportunity, and I would argue an obligation, to teach information literacy and critical thinking skills. These skills are universal, and will shape students’ lives long after they turn in their anatomy paper. If academic success increases retention for our students, imagine them retaining skills that will directly impact decisions they make about their health, their financial investments and their children.

The proprietary college library points students to classroom success, but it also points students to success outside the walls of our institutions. And by improving the skills and opportunities of its students, what does the library bring to the for-profit college?  Success.

Contact Jennifer Meyer at Jennie.Meyer@miller-motte.edu.