I’ve been working for one of the big for-profit universities for the last 2 years.  On the one hand, I believe they serve a purpose AND that the one I work for does things as well better than most (including many not-for-profits).  However I ALSO know that we get the most challenging students, and then are expected to work miracles with them.  A daunting task.

When I was working on my degree most of the faculty would have been appalled to hear where I was working.  For-profit was synonymous with evil.  There was no grey zone to most of them.  But since that was the only place that was able to pay a reasonable salary, I stayed and just didn’t get into it with the faculty.

In my current role things are a little tenuous; due to some internal politics, it’s not clear who I will be reporting to or what I will be doing 3-6 months in the future, although it’s fairly certain to change.  That could be good (opportunity) or it could be bad (doing things I’m just not that interested in).  But I’ve been playing it cool because, frankly, I have been comfortable.

Now something interesting has come up.  A position at my alma mater doing analysis for the budget and planning office.  It would pay slightly less (within 5%) of what I make now, come with an office instead of a cube, have a director title instead of a manger title (although still no direct reports), and make me eligible for pretty cushy set of benefits by private industry standards.  (People who have it complain, but really until they’ve work outside of a state university they have NO idea how little some companies offer.)

All that having been said, in some ways the job itself is a step backwards.  (The step up in title is just to make sure they could afford someone like me.)  I would be doing less of the cutting edge stuff I’m doing now, be less involved in the industry groups and publishing my research, and doing more mundane query-jockey stuff.  Oh, and have to pay an insane amount per year for parking, which I know sounds petty, but is vaguely irritating.

Nonetheless, I’m still strongly considering it.  This week is 2nd round interviews.  I will take half a day off and go talk to them.

So I’ve been asking myself WHY I am willing to take the bad things about this in order to change jobs and have come up with a couple of things:  I like the idea of the stability and knowing what I’ll be doing a few months from now, I like the benefits even if the salary is a bit less, and I like the idea of working for a not-for-profit again.

That last one is irritating.  I thought I had gotten over my snobbishness about that kind of thing, but apparently it’s still there, just suppressed.  I still look down on the for-profits as a place to build a career.  I see them fill a role, just not one I want to be involved with.  I’m not sure I like that about myself right now…

The thing is that there is very little difference in terms of the two types of organizations.  Non-profit educational institutions are every bit as concerned about money as for-profit colleges and universities.  This particular school is one of a wave of research institutions who, in the past few years, have made it clear that if a department or scholar isn’t bringing in enough money to pay their salary and support staff, they aren’t going to be kept around.  The non-profit keeps changing entrance requirements in such a way as to preclude the poorest, worst prepared and most needy students from attending.  In contrast, the for-profit is focused on programs to HELP those students succeed.  You can argue (and I’m sure Harkin would) that the for-profit is doing it only to increase their bottom line, but the fact remains that they are graduating students who otherwise never would have made it.  Neither is as evil or as pure as comics like the one above would have you think.

So why do I still have that snobbish attitude?  My next week will be spent focusing on making this decision based on facts, not that attitude.  I need to look at what both jobs offer, where they could go, and which will provide a secure future for myself and my husband.

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