Attitudes - Higher Ed & Professional Associations

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Professional Association - Adult Worker Attitudes

Professional organizations are groups that can be voluntarily joined by adult workers, usually centered around a particular field. These organizations may provide benefits to members, such as training, professional networking, information about the industry, or other benefits. For many, payment is required to become a member, and this may be a disincentive to join.

Prevalence and Cost

The following study was conducted in 2015 but is extremely relevant to this topic and there is little reason to expect statistics have changed in the intervening years. For this study, it was assumed that professional memberships in this case are fee-based. The study found the professional organizations are still relevant and desired by people in industries possessing these associations.

This study found that, in general, professional organizations are considered to be useful. However, there is a financial downside that turns many away. 74% of respondents in the survey under 40 years of age believed that professional associations and communities were useful and 92% believed that such organizations provided strong opportunities for networking. However, 45% left an organization because membership was too expensive. Generally, professionals intended to stay for a significant amount of time; 78% planned to remain in the group for at least two years. The social capital gained from such organizations is also considered very important; 93% of respondents reported that such social capital was important to their working lives.

The cost of membership for professional organizations can vary depending on the organization itself. For example, the Society of American Archivists charges a variety of fees depending on the member’s earnings per year. These range from $80 per annum to $275. This staggered fee system seems to be common, with the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics (APPE) also charging differing amounts based on income. Their fees range from $50 to $250. For the National Association of Professional Child Photographers, the fee is $175 per year with a $25 application surcharge. These costs may or may not be prohibitive based on the worker’s individual circumstances, but as they are optional many may choose to forego them, seeing them as an unnecessary expense. This seems likely considering almost one in two professionals choose not to join.

Reasons for Membership

There are several reasons for professionals to remain in organizations and associations related to their industry. These organizations can give several benefits such as networking with other professionals, social capital, and training.

The Society of American Archivists (SAA) published a survey enumerating the reasons that their members belong to the organization. These reasons can be expected to be similar across industries. The first and foremost reason that members remained in the organization was to stay current on information about profession, due to the organization publishing materials, running meetings and conferences, and offering education. The survey also highlighted the members’ use of the organization to network and build professional relationships as these are considered important. The third reason the survey highlighted was the ability to receive the SAA’s publications, journals, and newsletters.

The reasons for remaining in the organization are echoed in the APPE’s annual survey. In 2017, 76% of members believe that the most important reason for remaining the organization was to learn from others in the same subject area or a different one, making this the most commonly cited reason. The second, which 70% believed was the most important reason, was networking and building relationships with other professionals. These were by far the most important concerns and are also cited as the best benefits of membership.

While these benefits and reasons for joining professional organizations are the same between different industries, there are some industries that may create professional organizations for other concerns. A prime example is the National Association of Professional Child Photographers; one of the most valued benefits of joining this professional organization is increasing credibility and assuring customers, with 42% naming this as the reason for joining the organization.


Overall, professional organizations are considered by professionals to provide many benefits. Chiefest among these are the ability to network, the ability to learn from other professionals, being able to remain updated on their industry, and access to specialized publications. Most of the surveys gathered were organization-specific but the reasons for membership were echoed among them all. However, many may consider them too expensive and decline membership. This may affect them negatively professionally considering the high importance generally given to networking and social capital, both of which are facilitated via professional organizations.

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For Profit vs Nonprofit Higher Education - Prospective Student Attitudes

Prospective college students consider several factors when choosing a school. While non-traditional students are more likely to look for options such as flexible schedules and customizable programs, both traditional and non-traditional students are concerned with cost, graduation rates, and future earning potential. Our research did not reveal specific attitudes broken down along the lines of for-profit versus non-profit colleges; however, key considerations for each group provides insight into what matters most when choosing a school.



A report by The Brookings Institution indicates that 30% of full time U.S. college students attend private, non-profit schools; however, overall interest in public and for-profit schools remains high. Rising costs at public colleges — particularly in states with fewer taxpayer dollars flowing to public universities — have created concerns over declining affordability. Weak student results at many for-profit colleges highlight the burdens of students who leave college with debt and without a degree.


A blog post on the Indiana University/Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) website shows that 28% of for-profit college students graduate with a four-year degree, as compared to 65% at non-profit colleges. Further, only 37% of alumni of for-profit schools say their degree was, “well worth it”, while 30% admit, “it really wasn’t worth it”, and 32% feel that, "it remains to be seen".

With the price of for-profit schools significantly higher than non-profit schools, students often amass large sums of student loan debt. Data found on the IPFW website shows that students of for-profit schools default on their student loans at a rate of 1-in-5, as compared to 1-in-25 of not-for-profit alums.


Though dated (2015), the National Center for Educational Statistics provides graduation rates for traditional undergraduate students at 4-year colleges. Their data indicates that 59% of students at public universities had completed Bachelor's Degree programs within 6 years, as compared to 66% at private nonprofit institutions, and 23% at private for-profit institutions. While no reason for the difference was provided, the higher success rate of non-profit school attendees may be a result of lesser financial pressure and/or a reduced need for employment while in school.


David Scobey, a visiting scholar at the University of Michigan School of Education, has researched the college student landscape. His research shows that only 25% of U.S. college students enroll straight out of high school. Ironically, most colleges and universities are not sensitive to the needs of non-traditional students, "in everything from the academic calendar and when classes are, to rules for financial aid that favor traditional students, to the way that teachers are trained to have certain expectations of their students."
He identified three main challenges that face non-traditional students:
(1) Day-to-day life issues, such as employment considerations, finances, and alignment with class schedules. 
(2) Emotional factors, such as self-confidence and not being part of a traditional college experience.
(3) The way the "system" works, which is focused on traditional students. Financial aid and professor office hours are examples of a system that can be more difficult to navigate as a non-traditional student.

Increasingly, for-profit, private schools such as Brown University, Columbia University, Yale and Vassar are accepting and accommodating the needs of non-traditional students by offering benefits such as flexible schedules, an open curriculum, and mentoring and support programs. This promotes greater diversity among the student body and speaks to a wider pool of college applicants.

We can sum up what non-traditional students look for in colleges as:
— Those that cater to working adults.
— Schools that accept credits from prior degree programs and/or work experience.
— Programs that offer online degree programs.


An article in "Inside Higher Ed" addresses the similarities between Gen Z students (born between 1996 and 2012) and older, non-traditional students. Briefly, both groups would like to get an education, graduate quickly, and get a good job with high earnings potential. They are also concerned about student debt, which is more likely to be amassed at for-profit schools.
Traditional and non-traditional students are focused on career training, attending college so that they can get jobs and advance their careers. A 2015 study by Barnes & Noble College showed that "the number one factor in choosing a college is career preparation". They place great emphasis on choosing a college that will provide them with real world skills applicable to their career goals.

Like older students, Generation Z'ers are concerned about student debt. A 2016 report from Lincoln Financial Group shows that 48% of Gen Z worry about student loan debt, while 56% are concerned about getting a job after college.


Traditional students and their parents used to conduct much of their college selection research in consultation with a high school counselor or other professional. With the ease of researching via the internet, a greater proportion of the research and selection process is now on line, using tools such as the U.S. Department of Education's College Scorecard . According to the U.S. Department of Education's blog, the most important elements to consider when choosing a school are net cost, graduation rates, student debt, and post-college earnings.

Net cost refers to the amount of out-of-pocket costs, after scholarships and other financial aid. Whether a student will need to hold down employment while in school should be considered as part of the net cost.

Graduation and retention rates address the likelihood that students at the school will graduate, giving them the valuable credentials they seek.

Student debt is an important factor to consider. Understanding how much debt will accrue during college years and whether a student will be able to repay that debt is important in positioning them for future success.

Earnings potential is the reason many students attend college. Students need to consider whether their college efforts will position them for their target jobs and earnings.


To wrap up, top concerns for traditional and non-traditional college students are career preparation, affordability, graduation rates, and student loan debt. With only 25% of college students currently enrolling directly out of high school, colleges are increasingly offering programs that appeal to non-traditional students.