It is true that I work for a public university. However, I do not see for-profits as competition. I see them as bloodsuckers feeding off poor students who must accumulate vast amounts of loans, which they can never default on, to receive a crappy education (because federally underwritten student loans are not forgiven in bankruptcy).
I've known many students who worked and took classes at these for-profit corporations. The quality of instruction is poor. My students always mention that important fact. The most well known university in this class actually hires its own students (who have bachelor's degrees) to administer its online classes. Unbelievable.
Most students I know who worked at these for-profits were in sales/recruiting. These for-profits spend more on marketing and sales than they spend on instruction.
Their sales staff tell potential students they will earn degrees that will get them good paying jobs. $40k later the students have useless degrees and no job prospects.
Public universities are not perfect and I'm happy to discuss their problems. However, I can tell you that quality does matter and that relatively little is spent on marketing compared to instruction. Plus, public education is a LOT CHEAPER than for-profit education.
Here is a a short quote from the Alternet article by M. Brown that is linked above:
"According to data provided by U.S. Department of Education, students who enroll in for-profit colleges end up with debt that far outweighs that of their nonprofit and public school peers. The data showed that last year 350,000 University of Phoenix students were responsible for repaying almost $5 billion in outstanding loans, yet only 44 percent of them had the financial means to repay their loans...."