A good postsecondary education institution puts student success first. It prioritizes resources to provide excellent and relevant instruction, build and maintain facilities designed to enhance the learning experience and offer services to better support students in their educational journey through their training or degree completion. That said, there seems to be an inherent bias and assumption that private proprietary universities value profit over students. I am here to say that is simply not true. 

But what makes a higher education institution good? Is it its sector — public or private? Is it its model — nonprofit or for-profit? Or is it the person (or people) at the helm making the decisions on how to manage an institution’s resources and prioritize the allocation of its profits? It’s the latter!

Here are the top three ways private proprietary universities offer value to their students and workforce. 

They are self-sufficient

Private proprietary universities are not dependent upon public funds. They operate on their own, meaning there is no room for fiscal mismanagement, or else they go out of business. To be self-sufficient means that, like any other business, we must deliver exceptional products (in our case, higher education programs) to attract and attain our customers (students). 

They pay their taxes

Private proprietary universities build their state and local communities because they pay taxes that contribute directly to the tax base and indirectly through student and employee personal spending. No exemptions are given. Public and nonprofit postsecondary institutions only contribute indirectly.   

They are agile

Another pro of private proprietary universities is that they have the agility to respond to workforce needs and opportunities quickly. This doesn’t mean standards slip. As with all accredited institutions, they must meet rigorous standards to earn and maintain their accreditation. Their agility comes by having fewer steps to creating a new program than public universities and systems. 

Accreditation comes into play to ensure quality for all types of institutions. If an institution is accredited, it means it is valued by a third-party entity. Accrediting bodies are created to ensure the quality of educational programming, and institutions must pass a rigorous set of standards to earn and maintain accreditation. This process is one way to help the good actors stand out from the bad. 

Currently, private proprietary universities make up less than 5% of the total higher education portfolio in the country, yet they seem to disproportionately garner headlines about bad acting. Bad acting can be found in the other 95%. Let’s remember there’s strength in the kaleidoscope of offerings rather than forcing one type of higher educational offering to fit all needs. Focusing on one type of education offering limits the creativity, responsiveness, and strength of the economy. 

Private, proprietary universities have a valuable place in the market because they’re independent, contribute to the tax base and utilize agility to produce necessary talent. Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions supports measures to protect students and hold all postsecondary institutions accountable. Still, that effort must span the private and public sectors and include nonprofit and for-profit institutions alike. 

So, before you pass judgment on any college or university (public, nonprofit, or for-profit), review their student success outcomes and then decide — you might be surprised.

President Cameron K. Martin is the second president of Rocky Mountain University, a private proprietary institution located in Provo, Utah. Before coming to RMU, Martin spent several years working for Utah Valley University and the Utah System for Higher Education.