A lifelong learner myself, my curiosity was piqued by the latest proposed incarnation for the former Wykeham Rise School property in Washington.

Matthew and Erika Klauer are making a third attempt to see a profit from their investment in purchasing the 26-acre property at 101 Wykeham Road.

Before the town's Zoning Commission for the third time, the Klauers are seeking a special permit to construct a for-profit, post-graduate school at the site, which has previously housed two private, for-profit schools.

Are for-profit schools actually profitable? I wondered.

What is the trend in terms of attendance at for-profit schools versus not-for-profit community colleges?

Is there a benefit to a town in having a for-profit school located in it?

So, I Googled.

And I read.

And I found Dr. Jean Norris, the managing partner in Norton/Norris Inc., a marketing consulting firm that works exclusively in the field of education.

"In terms of structure, for-profits are set up so they actually pay taxes," Dr. Norris told me. "They pay real estate taxes, taxes on goods and services.

"They infuse a ton of money back into their community," she observed. "That's a good thing."

Structured differently than not-for-profit community colleges, the for-profit schools cater to their students' lifestyles.

They provide classes at times and of duration that fit adult schedules, with flexibility in class hours and quick changes in curriculum to meet student interest, Dr. Norris informed me.

The for-profits can react to the needs of the community quickly, a real plus in this day and age.

"People are willing to pay more for education through them because the offerings work within their lives," Dr. Norris explained.

Profitable for owners. Brings tax money into the town's coffers. So far, so good, I thought.

But, I still wondered, in general what is the quality of education at for-profit schools?

"With smaller class sizes, the faculty comes to know and work with the individual students," Dr. Norris said. "In a recent survey we conducted, asking questions like `quality of faculty' and `relevancy of classes,' these schools won hands down."

Neighbors of the Wykeham Road property said at the Zoning Commission's public hearing on the application in October that if the scope and size of the Klauers' proposal were reduced, they could support it.

It is the scope and size, as well as uncertainty regarding legitimacy of the for-profit school enterprise, that has them opposing it, neighbors said.

The Klauers project an adult student population of 120. They propose offering amenities to make the school appealing to attend.

How much can they reduce the scope and scale and still have a marketable, profitable enterprise?

I'm left wondering.