This study used archival sources to examine the factors that encouraged for-profit business education to shift during the 1970s from small, certificate programs for bookkeepers and secretaries to large, multisite universities for mid-level managers. Using data from the Occupational Outlook Handbook, as well as trend data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, I show that demand for the MBA began increasing dramatically during the 1970s. This increase alone, however, does not explain why new, low-status for-profit institutions managed to survive in the mature and highly competitive field of business education. I also show that demand for this degree increased among (a) women of child rearing age and (b) mid-career working adults—two populations traditionally underserved by the nonprofit university. For-profit schools were able to grow quite large by directing their marketing at these populations and offering an MBA that promised to be accessible, convenient, and practically oriented. While others have pointed to changes in political support for for-profit universities—especially more access to aid for students—to explain their growth, here I show that students had strong motivators for using federal funding at for-profits in the first place.


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pp. 573-600
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