Private vs. Public College: Which is Best For Me?
Find out the pros and cons of attending public and private colleges.
Deciding between a private and a public college is an individual choice.
There are prestigious institutions in both groups.
A public school derives most of its funding from the state, while a private school is largely funded by alumni donations, student tuition and its endowment (which includes funds granted to the school, as well as the interest generated on these investments).
The benefits of attending a pubic school are largely reliant on attending the state school in which you meet residency requirements. You may have a greater chance of admission, and you will get a break on tuition.
The tuition at a public school can vary immensely. For example, one of the least expensive public schools in the country is New Mexico Highlands University, which costs $2,536 per year. Some schools, like Penn State, cost almost five times that amount. Many public schools offer different rates of tuition for residents (in-state) and non-residents. In-state tuition is often one of the best deals available for college.
The selectivity and exclusivity of public schools varies. Some public colleges, like UCLA and UC Berkeley (both part of the University of California system), are among the most exclusive in the country. According to recent admissions data for applications for the classes of 2015, UCLA accepts approximately 25% of applicants. Other public schools, such as CU Boulder or the University of Iowa, accept well over 50% of students who apply.
When it comes to financial aid, a public school may offer a limited amount of merit-based scholarships to students who excel academically, or who demonstrate great promise in sports or other activities. However, most of the financial aid from a public school will be loan-based, either through federal or private programs.
In general, tuition at private schools will be greater, but private schools may be more likely to offer need-based grants for students who cannot afford tuition. The tuition may range from $30,000 to $45,000 per year at a private school.
For example, Rice University costs almost $35,000 a year, but it usually awards over $30 million annually in financial aid. In 2007, 71.2% of all undergraduates received aid from the school.
Another concern to consider is quality of education. If reputation is important to you, there are prestigious public and private school. For example, UC Berkeley has more Nobel laureates associated with the university than schools like Stanford or Yale.
Which is Better…Public or Private?
Keep in mind, the quality of education depends largely on the individual school. While many private schools sometimes offer more individual attention, special programs in public universities might offer just as much (if not more) personal attention. When it comes to advanced research and graduate programs, many public universities are leaders in their fields.
Public schools, simply by virtue of their size, often offer an extremely diverse student body and many opportunities for student involvement. However, at private schools, admissions departments make a point of trying to find a diverse class every year – even if the overall size of the student body is significantly smaller.
If you’re thinking about sports, many public universities are known as sports powerhouses including the University of Florida, Ohio State University, University of Texas, Penn State University and others. However, many private colleges hold their own on the sports field. Private schools such as the University of Southern California, Duke University, Stanford University and University of Notre Dame all often produce nationally ranked teams in a variety of sports.
Private vs. Public College: Tips and Tactics
- Determine exactly what you want in a school. Make a list of the things you value, whether it be academics or a social life or athletics, and see which type of school these values align with.
- Location is going to have a big impact on your school choice. Private schools are more common in the northeast and west, while the midwest and south are populated by a lot of public institutions.
- Do your research. When it comes to both cost and quality, both public and private schools offer their own benefits.
People Who Read This Article Also Read:
Is An Urban Campus Right For You?
Should You Attend a Single-Sex College?
Explore All Higher Education Options: Types of Colleges
Small Schools vs. Large Schools: Which is Right For Me?
The Most Spirited Colleges