For-Profit vs Non-Profit Schools

It may be an International educator’s automatic response that a non-profit school is a better career choice than one classified as for-profit. Does teaching at a non-profit assure a better overall experience? What happens when for-profits masquerade as non-profits? Deciding which type of school is best for YOU may prove things are not always what they seem.

Let’s define terms: A non-profit organization is defined as an entity that exists for charitable purposes, usually a group based on a common interest. Embassy parents, creating a school for the sole purpose of providing an education for their expat children, falls into this category. After salaries and expenses are paid, all remaining monies go back into the school. In most countries these entities do not pay taxes. Creating an overseas school with a tax home in the US, for example, would qualify for tax exemption. Non-profits are often seen as the ‘good guys.’

For-profit organizations are classified as being operated with the goal of showing a profit. They serve their customers by selling a product or service. The owner earns an income from the profits and may also pay shareholder investors from these profits. These entities are not tax exempt.

On the surface, the difference between a for-profit and a non-profit school appears to boil down to shareholders pocketing the money a non-profit would otherwise invest into bettering the school.

A close look, however, reveals a blurred line between for-profit and non-profit schools. Non-profits with a tax base in the US are required to make their tax returns public, for example. A review of these documents often reveals huge salaries and/or bonuses paid to owners, directors, principals, advisors, board members, and other ‘positions’ easily assigned (at least on paper) to family members or investors. No money is left over to better a school ‘masquerading’ as a non-profit, and there may also be no interest in developing the professional/personal interests of its hired staff.

On the other hand, many for-profit schools, operated by owners with a community consciousness, clearly outshine some non-profits. Many such school owners are not only satisfied to make a fair profit, but also glean satisfaction and pride from offering a top quality educational product to parents and students. They include fair salaries and benefits packages for teachers. ISR hosts Reviews of such school.

There’s more to a name than vernacular would have you believe. Don’t be misled by titles. As always, ISR encourages you to Research, Research, Research!

ISR asks: What has YOUR experience been with both for-profit and non-profit schools?

Comments? Please scroll down to participate in this ISR Discussion

6 thoughts on “For-Profit vs Non-Profit Schools

  1. There is a certain school in QuerĂ©taro, named after a certain former US president that fits this definition of a school masquerading as a nonprofit. Any school listed with ‘A.c.’ at the end of their name indicates nonprofit in Mexico, and many do it becaise they enjoy massive tax breaks. I’ve worked at 2 schoools there. Corrupt is, as corrupt does. Be careful when looking at schools in good old Mexico. It’s a very toxic environment down there.


  2. I think international schools go through growing pains regardless of whether it is based on the FP or NFP model. I think FP schools eventually change for the better when they apply for accreditation.


  3. Having worked in both, we cannot make any broad generalizations or judgements. Owner-managed schools need to make a profit so their investment brings a return. That said, far too many “owners” are not interested in education but see their venture as a cash cow. Many embassy schools or parent sponsored NP institutions do recycle any profits they make back into the school as development or investment actions but not all. Treatment of students, parents, educators and other staff can vary significantly based on how important the happiness and satisfaction of ex-pat staff is to the school administration and/or owner. There are serious issues with certifying organizations ignoring abusive and anti-educational school behaviour, fraudulent and even illegal misuse and abuse of some school’s powers, etc. From my experience, most schools do try and educate their students to the best of their ability but also far too many claim to be IB or AP schools and are not even close.


  4. I think years ago there was a difference between the FP and NFP. I work in two elite NFP and we could not give grades lower than B! These elite schools are hard to get into but difficult to expel a student. Often times, the board members make a lot decisions that are to detriment of the students.
    I think the quality of education, public , private , FP or NFP has sunk to an all time low


  5. In this day and age it’s not wise to fall for titles. I’ve worked at both so-called non-profit schools and so-called for-profit schools. The only difference is in the title. The supposed embassy sponsored school was lacking in everything. They couldn’t get supplies delivered even through the embassy. In reality they never ordered them. The director got busted embezzling money. I guess everything he stole qualified them for the non-profit status: LOL. Good luck out there. Keep your eyes and ears open and research before you leap.


  6. FP or NFP either way it promotes elitism. How many NPF schools can the average person from the country it is in join the school? How many of those schools cap the number of local students that can join the school?

    It’s still all about money, whether that money is put back into the school or an owners pockets. Don’t forget all the auxiliary companies that can be owned by the NFP school.

    Give me FP any time, at least I know where I stand with them, who I am making money for and what the end goal is.

    Liked by 1 person

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