Exploring Between-Sector Transfers: Why For-Profit University Students Switch to Public Institutions

Molly Ott, Thomas Zimmerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explores the choices and experiences of undergraduates who transfer out of for-profit 4-year universities and matriculate into a public university. Interviews with students who moved from one of seven 4-year for-profit universities to a single public university during Fall 2021 indicated a combination of academic and financial factors that precipitated their decisions to transfer. Specific academic-related issues included lack of alignment between students’ interests and the school's available degrees, quality concerns, and institutional policies and practices that restricted students’ agency in making decisions about their academic program of study. Affordability was also a major consideration for many study participants. Attending the for-profit was a low-cost option initially but changes in aid packages and/or tuition prices motivated them to seek less expensive options elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory and Practice
StateAccepted/In press - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • for-profit universities
  • horizontal transfers
  • lateral transfers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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