Public Vs. Private Colleges: What’s the Difference?

Every year, high school graduates are faced with making choices as to where they plan on going to college. For some, that decision is quick and painless but for many others, it can be a painstaking process of weighing pros and cons across many factors. One of the most common considerations that almost inevitably pop up is the debate between selecting a private college or a public institution. There are many stereotypical facets associated with each one, private schools are more expensive, and public schools have larger class sizes, and so on.

However,is there really a difference between the two, large enough at least to make you want to opt for one over the other? Most students tend to go to the school that best suits their particular educational and career goals. Conversely, sometimes the decision can hinge on the various differences between what each type of school offers. Thus, let’s explore the actual differences that do exist and you can make a better judgment on the school you ultimately pick. You can choose UAB or Hofstra University when all is said and done but it’s important you make that choice for the right reasons.

Three Specific Differences

Public vs. Private is an ongoing debate that is based on these main differences:

1. Size

Not only are the class sizes usually (but not always) bigger at public schools, most of them offer an increased number of degrees to the student body. Private universities tend to keep the classes smaller, which many students and parents believe can give them more access to faculty and receive personal attention in and out of class.

2. Costs

Public colleges can be cheaper if you are attending a school that is located in the same state in which you reside. These institutions take funding from state government resources. Private schools can have higher tuition costs and they are typically funded through other resources such as donations and private funding. Private colleges might also have higher criteria for acceptance than some public schools.

3. Demographics

Public institutions will usually have a higher percentage of students who live in the state since tuition is less expensive for those who are local in-state. But this presents a possible issue of diversity where students don’t meet a wide variety of new people who aren’t from the regional part of the country in which the school is based. Private schools typically have more students who were born from all over the country and the world, in some cases. These statistics don’t apply to every school but these demographics are prevalent in most instances.

Making a Choice

So yes, there are differences between the two types of schools. The one that is best suited for you is really up to you alone. But deciding where to attend a four-year program based on the three major differences listed above shouldn’t be the only determinant in where you go to college. Course work, faculty experience, curriculum, and certain other distinctions should all come into play first and the debate over private vs public should hold less weight.