Book Reviews

Book by Breneman, D. W., Pusser, B., & Turner, S. E.
Review by David Bucci
Academic Advisor
College of Technology & Computer Science
East Carolina University


Often times, the topic of “for-profit” universities (e.g. University of Phoenix, Devry, and Strayer) brings to mind general thoughts of “online-only” colleges that offer “easier” routes to a degree than a traditional university.  While not the primary purpose of the editors/authors, these beliefs and other misconceptions are refuted throughout the eight chapters of Earnings from Learning.  Each chapter provides a different perspective in looking at the growth and implications of for-profit universities using quantitative and qualitative data; broken down into theoretical, practical, and political themes.

Though for-profit universities have been a large part of the educational arena for over thirty years, the greatest factor in their inception and continued growth came as a result of the Higher Education Act of 1972 (6).  This piece of legislation changed the way financial aid was provided; allowing students different avenues of non-traditional educational paths, (6) similar to the effect the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act (GI Bill) had in assisting World War II veterans with aid for higher education (36).  

The fast and continuously growing for-profit universities offer regionally and nationally accredited degree options to students that otherwise might not be able to participate in the traditional university or college environment. As stated by one author, the greatest factor in the rise of for-profit universities comes from an increase in student motivation, “largely based on the desire for professional and career advancement.” (72) Whereas a high school diploma may have once been more than sufficient to enter the work force, the paradigm has shifted towards the minimum requirement of a baccalaureate degree, pushing employees to seek advanced levels of education.  

With the continued increase of non-traditional students in both for-profit and traditional universities, advisors can expect a growing number of adult and/or full time working students that may have different needs than the “traditional” (18-22 year old) student.  Mentioned repeatedly throughout Earnings from Learning, is that for-profit universities are in place not to compete with traditional universities, but rather to provide an alternative form of education for wanting students.  Based on this belief, and the continued need for higher education, enrollment in both for-profit and traditional colleges will continue to balloon, leading to an extensive growth in advisee numbers.  Thus, additional training and resources will be needed to work with and meet the academic needs of this population in addition to present advisees.

The different views presented by each author allows for different perspectives concerning for-profit universities; especially in comparison to traditional non-profit university models.  Especially interesting was the history of the for-profit university sector, the University of Phoenix model (chapter 4) and the politics and economics involved (chapter 8).  However, even with the vast amount of information presented, having a different writer for each chapter brings a lack of consistency in terminology and flow to the book as a whole.  This could be the result of some chapters consisting of articles from previous journals and presentations, rather than the entire book being written collaboratively from the outset.  It is highly recommended to look at each chapter as a separate informational piece.    While the introduction provided an in-depth and informative overview of the book, a final chapter that provided a summation and reiteration of the information presented would have been a great addition. Overall, Earnings from Learning is highly effective in providing comprehensive information, backed with statistical data, to the rise of for-profit universities that which can be utilized by any member of higher education, especially advisors.


Earnings from Learning: The Rise of For-Profit Universities. (2006).  Book by Breneman, D. W., Pusser, B., & Turner, S. E. (Eds.). Review by David Bucci Albany. NY: State University of New York Press.  211 pp., $24.95. ISBN # 0-7914-6840-2
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