All you need to know about Private Not-for-Profit colleges

Private Not-for-profit colleges are publicly owned and mostly managed by a board of trustees of non-profit organizations. Learn about the features, advantages, disadvantages and more about these universities.

Updated by Avinash H on 20th October 2020

Usually, several educational institutions undertake economic activities with a motive to earn a profit. But, some colleges work with a purpose to provide quality education to its students. The trustees of these universities are fully accountable to the students enrolling. A not for profit college is modeled and planned with the sole motivation for creating a learning framework that serves for the student's advantage.

Private non-profits colleges are the traditional schools you likely picture when you think of college–liberal arts colleges, community colleges, state universities with huge campuses, and an attractive environment. These colleges receive funding from a variety of sources such as the government, tuition fees, and donations. A leading body of trustees oversees them. There are no proprietors or investors in a nonprofit school, leaving the administration to concentrate on giving quality education to their students.

Non-profit online colleges exist to fulfill an educational mission, rather than to generate a profit. They cannot distribute earnings to owners by law, but instead, have to reinvest money back into the school.

Private Colleges and Universities

The private colleges and universities usually fall mong the two categories mentioned below,

  1. Not-for-profit

  2. For-profit

In general, private nonprofit colleges and universities have a higher price tag than for-profit ones. Still, often scholarships, grants, and other financial aid make them as affordable as public colleges. Educational accrediting agencies accredit most nonprofit colleges and universities. They offer courses on campus and sometimes online.

 Also,  these organizations get generous funds in the form of government and state financing. The majority of this encourages them to work productively. At the same time, they are keeping the tuition fees lower and attractive campus environment.

For-profit colleges, or proprietary, colleges are the fastest-growing postsecondary schools in the nation, enrolling a disproportionately high share of disadvantaged and minority students and those ill-prepared for college. Because these schools, many of the big national chains, derive most of their revenue from taxpayer-funded student financial aid, they are of interest to policymakers.

Some for-profit colleges are not accredited - other schools or credible employers do not recognize the diploma. For-Profit colleges don't offer specialized courses - they rarely have anything beyond their standard curriculum.

Also, read for-profit vs. not-for-profit college 

Top Private Non-Profit Colleges in the US

Non-profit Universities are exempt from federal corporate income taxes and may receive direct public funding or have charitable endowments. As a result, they may offer lower tuition and more types of financial aid. Teaching, financial aid availability, and performance can vary by school, so we encourage you to look at all factors affecting your school choice.

  1. Harvard University

  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  3. Yale University

  4. Columbia University

  5. California Institute of Technology

  6. Stanford University

  7. Brown University

  8. Duke University

  9. Princeton University

  10. University of Pennsylvania

Features of Not-for-Profit Colleges and Universities

  • None are predatory but have varying success rates. Students should research institutions carefully applying

  • Well-established rules, current regulations tightening institutions’ accountability toward students

  • Wide variety of financial aid available (loans, college scholarships, grants)

  • Most of these institutions are accredited, courses transfer between institutions, degrees are widely recognized

  • Regulated by state / federal laws and educational approved boards

  • Well built infrastructure with ample facilities

Advantages of not-for-profit colleges 

Every student needs to consider which type of university experience is best for them. Traditional, online, for-profit, nonprofit.all of these schooling experiences have their benefits.

  • Not-for-profit colleges charge tuition and use the revenue generated to make the school run, helping the students learn and use their income to benefit the students.

  • Highly qualified faculty with loads of teaching experience whose expertise is valued  and respected

  • Nonprofit universities are usually accredited universities, meaning that your classes and degree holds more weight. The NWCCU (WGU's accrediting commission) is one of the principal accrediting commissions recognized by the Department of Education. Regional accreditation is the gold standard, and it is the type of recognition that traditional universities hold

  • Nonprofit universities focus on improving the student’s experience and increasing student success, rather than generating revenue.

  • Institutions operate independently of an ownership structure and are free to focus on providing quality education to students.

  • These universities are generally the less expensive option, due to state funding and other cost-saving efforts.


Disadvantages of not-for-profit colleges

  • Some public campuses are overcrowded. They offer traditional scheduling with limited online options and maybe more bureaucratic

  • Private nonprofit colleges are much more selective. The admissions process at non-profit schools won’t be open, which could be detrimental to students with lower grades and test scores

  • These universities usually have less flexible learning options that will require commuting to a physical campus, including in hazardous winter conditions

How can you differentiate not-for-profit colleges and for-profit colleges?

A school’s website might not be straightforward; “.edu” does not reveal for-profit or nonprofit status. Instead, words such as “Investor Relations” reference for-profit status, while “public” refers to non-profit status. The landing page of school websites may offer clues: If the page is informational, it is likely nonprofit. If it is asking for your contact information, it is likely a for-profit that will be aggressive in advertising to you.

Find reliable information on a college’s for-profit or nonprofit status and other vital data (graduation rates, costs, income after graduation, default rates, programs/majors) on these two sites -


I hope this article gives you an insight into how non-profit colleges function. They operate on a different model from for-profit colleges in terms of regulations and funding. Students can enjoy an array of facilities and opportunities that these colleges offer. Not-for-Profit colleges are the right choice for students who are looking for a rewarding experience and a bright future!