The moment comes, when you need to enter a university and get a higher education. Hundreds of students-to-be face a real academic dilemma: which university to choose, a state or private university?
Since there’s no single, all-purpose answer to this question, the best option is to examine the advantages of both.
The following detailed analysis is based on the highlighted terms. These principles can help to clarify any questions a student may have about making a choice between public and state universities.
The question of payment is a top priority. When choosing a public university, one can save a fortune in tuition and fees. A year’s tuition at a private university can be up to ten times higher than the cost of attending a state university. So, if you live on a low-budget, you won’t likely be able to afford the cost of attending a private university. However, if you are a high-achiever, there are numerous scholarships and financial packages that can be of assistance.
Admission to a state university tends to be much easier. State universities are generally much bigger than private universities and can therefore accept more applicants. Being a citizen of a particular state will help you make the list of admitted students.
Unlike state universities, private universities are usually fairly small; that’s why they only take on a limited number of new admissions each year. This fact explains why private universities often seem so restrictive and why competition to enter private universities is so high.
The level of academic teaching is sufficient enough at both types of educational establishments. Public universities offer the same variety of staff and the level of expertise is almost the same as at private universities. Still there’s some contrast between the two academic approaches. The low number of students at private universities increases the possibility for tutorials and consultations. These types of academic activities usually take place within small groups, and stimulate dialogue between professors and the students. Undoubtedly, this can be regarded as a valid benefit of private universities because this way of academic interaction and communication serves to develop analytic and critical thinking, which are of great importance for any individual’s future career (Drum, 2012).
Also, it must be admitted that private universities are considered to be more prestigious than state universities, so they are more likely to stimulate one’s future success (Nairaland Forum, 2015).
Apart from studies, each university pays attention to creating a student community by means of extracurricular activities. The number of extracurricular activities at private universities can be slightly higher compared to state universities, but the difference is too slight to be cited as a significant disadvantage for public universities (Drum, 2012).
A true benefit of state universities is that you can select the one you need according to the country region or a city you desire.
It’s hard to give one exact answer to the question: “Which is better: Public or Private universities?” The academic goals and financial demands of each are different, and each type of university has strong points and weak points. By choosing a public university, you choose a safe and proven way receive a college higher education at a relatively low price. By selecting a private university, you are sure to get into a privileged circle of students, thus investing into a successful start of your future career. Just be ready to pay for it if you’re lucky enough to be admitted. One certain thing is that the decision to continue studies and get a well-rounded education is always the right one. Luckily, the number of universities is sufficient enough to fulfill demand, so you’re sure to find a university to suit your needs.
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Public vs. Private Universities
When choosing the college you’ll attend, there’s an enormous number of compromises and decisions that need to be made. West coast vs. east coast, big vs. small, urban vs. surburban – the list goes on. Perhaps one of the most challenging and nuanced of these decisions is the choice between attending a public or a private university. There are myriad advantages and disadvantages for both, along with many stereotypes, both good and bad, that contribute to public perception of each. We’ve broken down some common misconceptions and highlighted the differences between public and private universities to help you make the decision that’s best for you.
The first conclusion students and families tend to jump to when comparing public and private universities is cost. Because public universities receive government funding, the assumption is that they’re always cheaper than private universities. While attending a public university certainly can be cheaper than a private one, whether that’s true in any given case depends on a number of factors. Firstly, and most obviously, it depends on which schools are being compared. Some public schools’ tuition is as high as $17,000. On the other hand, some private schools also boast tuition as low as $5000; a select few are entirely free. Clearly, the conception of private schools as universally more expensive than their government-funded counterparts is simply false.
That being said, on average, the average cost of attending a public school is generally lower than a private school. This difference is especially pronounced when considering in-state vs. out of state tuition. Students who reside in the school’s state (i.e. a California resident attending UC Berkeley) are charged less in tuition fees than students from out of state or out of country. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always mean attending public school is always cheap; even in the in-state cost of attendance at some public schools exceeds $35,000 annually.
The cheaper tuition comes at a price, however; public schools often have fewer resources to assign for financial aid purposes, which can sometimes make a public school with a lower sticker price actually costlier to attend. Aid packages at public schools may be similar to those offered at smaller, less wealthy private schools, but they can’t match the full-ride packages that well-endowed schools like the Ivy League provide. Aid at public schools tends to be assigned to low-income students, often leaving middle-class students with nowhere to turn. However, recent efforts have been made at many universities to expand financial aid offerings for the middle class. In addition, nearly all public schools offer merit scholarships for exemplary academic or athletic performance. If you don’t feel like paying any tuition at all, the service academies, such as West Point or the Naval Academy, offer top-tier education on a full scholarship under the condition that graduates complete a term of service with the United States military.
For most private schools, cost of attendance is fixed regardless of state or country of residence. There are some private colleges that offer free tuition, most famously the Cooper Union (until its decision to begin charging students tuition in recent years). However, oftentimes the cost of attending private schools is made much more manageable through generous financial aid or merit scholarships. At some schools, students are not expected to pay at all if their family falls into a certain income bracket. However, if you don’t qualify for financial aid, financing your education at a private school can be tricky; the annual cost of attendance exceeds $70,000 at some private universities.
Another commonly cited difference between public and private universities is size. Public universities are usually much larger than private ones; the largest private university, New York University, has a total enrollment of about 20,000 (including graduate schools) while the largest public university, Arizona State University, has over 60,000.
The size of a university has a significant impact on student life. At a large public university, your class will be composed of thousands of students, many of which you’ll never meet, while at a smaller private school, smaller class sizes (usually ranging from 500 – 3000 students) mean you are likely to cross paths with many, if not most of your classmates. Large class sizes allow you to constantly meet new people, but the anonymity of being one in a class of over 8,000 is difficult for some students.
At a private school, smaller classes sometimes mean each student gets more individual attention from faculty or administration, but this isn’t necessarily true. Small discussion classes are often delegated to TAs or grad students can’t afford the degree of attention a student may expect, and enormous lecture classes for introductory classes like economics or physics often have hundreds of students. Furthermore, the inevitability of meeting most of your classmates at some point can make for a less dynamic social environment than one may find at a large public university.
Concerns about impacted majors and enormous class sizes trouble many potential public school students. It can be more difficult to get into required classes and graduate on time at public schools, especially if a student’s intended major is impacted (the number of students in a certain major exceeds the resources available to the department). Additionally, introductory classes often have hundreds of students and forging close bonds with professors can be difficult as a result. However, going to a public school doesn’t mean you’re doomed to graduate in 7 years. While placement into classes can be more of an ordeal and the student to faculty ratio is usually higher than at a private school, graduating on time is certainly not impossible.
Due to smaller class sizes, graduating on time is more common at private schools. An important factor to note, however, is that as the academic caliber of a school increases, so does the on-time graduation rate. Students at top-ranked universities are usually ambitious enough to take rigorous course loads to graduate on time and drop out at a lower rate than lower-ranked universities, regardless of whether the universities in question are public or private.
Amenities available to students are another supposed difference between public and private schools, although this difference becomes increasingly negligible every year. While it is commonly assumed that private universities, by nature of their private funding, are able to offer nicer amenities (dining, housing, student activities, etc.) to their students, that is no longer universally true. While ultra-rich universities the likes of Harvard or Yale do tend to spend more money on their students than the average public school, the difference in quality of student life is not enormous. Many public schools offer excellent food and state-of-the-art facilities in student unions, gyms, dorms, and other meeting spaces.
If you’re deciding between a public and a private university, avoid relying on generalizations or stereotypes about each to make your decision. Obviously, the experiences of students at both types of schools can vary wildly, so research and evaluate each school based upon its own merit, not merely what you’ve assumed based off its public or private designation. What you find may surprise you!
Below, we’ve compiled a table summarizing the differences between public and private universities. Keep in mind these are general statements, and by no means apply to all public and private universities; if you’re deciding between a public and private school, it’s in your best interest to do research on each to make the best-informed decision possible.
|Issue||Public School||Private School|
|Sticker Price||Usually cheaper||Usually more expensive|
|Financial Aid||Fewer funds available||More generous|
|Amenities||Depends on the school, but on average about the same as a private school||Depends on the school, but on average about the same as a public school|
|On Time-Graduation Rate||50-70% on average||70-90% on average|
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Anamaria is an Economics major at Columbia University who's passionate about sharing her knowledge of admissions with students facing the applications process. When she's not writing for the CollegeVine blog, she's studying Russian literature and testing the limits of how much coffee one single person can consume in a day.