This study explored factors affecting adult enrollment in online degree programs offered by for-profit virtual universities relative to those offered by traditional nonprofit
institutions. A mixed methods approach was taken to investigate differences in perceived motivations and barriers to participation and the extent to which adults differentiate
between nonprofit and for-profit institutions in the context of online programs. The findings indicate a perception among those selecting for-profit universities that a degree from an institution which is “known” is just as good as one from a “reputable” institution, and differences in how each institutional preference group searched for and evaluated
potential programs. It is suggested that future research focus on understanding perceptions o f online programs offered by nonprofit colleges.