Public vs. Private Colleges: Does it Really Matter?

The debate between choosing a public college and a private alternative has gone on for decades. However, the reality is that each has its own benefits and disadvantages. Therefore, choosing one over the other solely based on the criteria of public vs. private isn’t going to make selecting a school any easier.

Some people may cite the main difference, cost, as the prevailing factor for where to go to college. This can be an important component to making the right decision but it shouldn’t be the only one. So you can go to Brandeis University or pursue Washington State’s online mba program.However, that decision should be made based on the school itself and not the perceived stereotypes associated with them.

Some may opt for a public college or university because the tuition expenses can be significantly less. Choosing a private university is typically considered to be an educational experience that has smaller class sizes and more personal attention from the faculty. Yet, these shouldn’t be the main determining factors for picking the school that is right for you. Let’s take a look at two of the most common attitudes about public vs private institutions and consider the realities that are associated with each.

Tuition Expenses

Yes, technically public colleges are less expensive than their private counterparts. That’s if you just look at what the college is asking from each student. But in reality, most households rarely pay the full freight for private college tuition. A variety of factors come into play when paying for school. This is particularly the case with households making lower incomes.

There arelong lists of private institutions that are still as affordable as public alternatives for families on a limited income. The only big difference between the two is when you weigh the options of going public in-state versus out of state. If you are looking at schools within your state, you will save money over paying tuition for a public in a different state. However, public vs. private in the costs category isn’t impactful enough to make you select one over the other on that basis alone.

Class Size

Though the class sizes are typically smaller with private institutions, it has no bearing on the quality of the education. Sure it sounds logical that if a teacher has more time to spend with each student that can make an impact on their progress, but graduation rates demonstrate otherwise.

The number of students graduating from both public and private schools is relatively similar by contrast. In addition, each student learns at a different speed and those who are having trouble will be able to get personal attention from their faculty. Conversely, those who naturally excel won’t need as much one-on-one time. Just because the class size is bigger doesn’t mean that the faculty can’t give each student what they need to succeed. Nor does it mean that the instruction the class is receiving is any better at one or the other.