Career College Industry: Trends and Threats

of two

Career College Industry: Trends

New education policies around career college education, the development of diverse Career Technical Education (CTE) pathways, and high male and whites enrollment rates are three examples of major trends seen in the career college industry and mentioned across several reports nationally, statewide, and district-levels. The trends in this industry are impacting high school students significantly; hence, most trends tend to be seen from the perspective of high school education. Importantly, some colleges such as the Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC) in Virginia, are responding positively to these changes by streamlining their offerings to match the new education needs of high school students.




  • Trends based on demographic data tend to show more whites and males enroll in these CTEs compared to females and other ethnic groups. National data shows that in 2018, there were approximately 7.4 million students in CTE programs.
  • Male enrollment in CTE programs was nearly 10 percentage points higher (54.1%) versus female enrollment at 45.9%.
  • Whites were the majority enrollees at approximately 51.2%, African-American at 16.1%, and Hispanic/Latino at 23.2%.


To identify the two trends in the career college industry and examples of colleges that are implementing them, your research team started by exploring education databases and reports published by various shareholders in the education sector. We found numerous reports showing the trends impacting the career college industry, especially students who have completed high school and intend to join colleges to pursue higher education. In these reports, we focused on the key items that are trending nationally, statewide, and at district-level. We selected these key items as trends, since they were mentioned as trends and are repeated across the many reports we examined.

Therefore, based on that approach, we discovered that in the career college industry, there are new education policies being enacted around career college education across many states in the U.S., and the development of diverse Career Technical Education (CTE) pathways as two examples of trends impacting this sector. We also included some trends based on student demographics to provide a snapshot of how the career college industry is impacting different genders and ethnic groups. Overall, the trends reported try to provide insights into the career college industry based on what institutions are doing to provide better education to students, and how are demographics responding to the industry, which is reflected based on enrollment rates into the many career college programs offered by various institutions.
of two

Career College Industry: Threats

Threats in the career college industry include changes in policy such as accreditation and disruptive innovation such as online learning.


  • Disruptive innovation such as specific online learning and masterclass presents people with affordable options that are more accessible and convenient. As such, they do not have to enroll for a college degree and take loans.
  • According to Education Dive, more than 100 for-profit and career colleges closed between 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 alone, a resultant of the growth of online learning platforms and masterclasses.
  • In 2018 there were a lot of career college closures in the news, Forbes expects more closures in the years ahead, as well as more mergers to tackle this threat.
  • The extent of the impact of online learning platforms on career colleges may not be entirely evident just yet. As reported in a Forbes article, the effect of disruption on higher education would likely be "slow because of the loyalty of alumni and the dual conservatism of employers that hire from colleges and parents who often help foot the tuition bill."
  • Education Corporation of America closed all its career colleges because of the declining enrollment for the chain; it owns 75 campuses and enrolls 20,000 students in cosmetology, culinary, medical, and dental courses.


  • In December 2018, the Accrediting Council of Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) revoked the accreditation it had granted "Education Corp. of America, which ran the Brightwood locations and other colleges across the country." This was despite earlier accrediting the same corporation.
  • The Barack Obama presidency wanted to strip the ACICS of the powers to accredit colleges, but "after a legal battle, President Donald Trump's administration undid that move."
  • Such flip-flops in policy may pose direct and indirect threats on colleges across the country.
  • Moreover, the Education Department is also trying to change the process of accreditation, which may usher in new standards for colleges to meet.
  • However, some experts argue that these new rules and standards "may lead to students taking chances on junk programs."
  • Therefore, there's a threat that the next government may come in and change the rules again.
  • ITT Tech closed in 2016, while Corinthian Colleges did the same in 2015. Both had been accredited by ACICS, but the accrediting group said it gave multiple warnings, but the colleges weren't able to meet its standards.
  • Another school that shut down as a result of accreditation was Brightwood College.

From Part 01
  • "After years of focusing intensely on college readiness, states are turning their attention to students' futures as workers, enacting a flurry of laws and policies designed to bolster career education and preparation."
  • "In the last year and a half, states have stepped up to create their own ways of prioritizing career study while a long-overdue reauthorization of the main federal career and technical education law, the Carl D. Perkins Act, "percolates" in Congress, said Catherine Imperatore, who tracks legislation for the Association for Career and Technical Education."
  • "High School Juniors and Seniors in Newport News Public Schools have the opportunity to obtain Dual Enrollment college credits through Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC) or Norfolk State University (NSU) while taking a Career and Technical Education course."
  • "Students will be taught at their home high school by an approved dual enrollment teacher. There are no tuition fees or travel required for this wonderful opportunity for our students!"
  • "CTE programs integrate traditional high school coursework with career preparatory courses that build students’ technical skills in a variety of areas. This can range from the modern iterations of classic vocational courses in construction and mechanics to new, 21st century skills in computer science and engineering."
  • "The amount of CTE coursework each student completes varies widely and depends on the program. In a typical, comprehensive high school, students may take one or two elective CTE courses as part of their regular curriculum."
From Part 02
  • "Some higher education media have, in turn, used the predictions to lampoon the idea that disruptive innovation has a role to play in creating more affordable, accessible and convenient higher education options for people who would otherwise have no educational option. "
  • "But the truth of the matter is that disruptive innovation is only part of why Christensen originally made his prediction. The prediction arose out of an observation that the business model of traditional colleges and universities was broken."
  • "The shutdown follows years of declining enrollment for the chain. More recently, the privately held company scrambled to turn around its troubled finances by closing about a third of its campuses and pursuing a corporate overhaul through a court-approved receivership. "
  • "Yet in December 2018, the agency revoked the accreditation of Education Corp. of America, which ran the Brightwood locations and other colleges across the country. The closures of dozens of institutions followed swiftly. Students had spent the time and money but still had no degrees and no clear path forward. "
  • "Brightwood College campuses across San Antonio, and across the nation are shutting down, leaving students to wonder what’s next."They can't tell us nothing it's all going to be in an email they're shutting down everybody is packing up all of their stuff." One student said."
  • "According to the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, decided to withdraw, by suspension, the accreditation of all institutions owned by Virginia Colleges including Brightwood College."