Public Colleges vs. Private: Pros and Cons

There are many misconceptions surrounding the good and bad of public and private colleges. Perhaps the most common of these myths is that public education comparatively lacks in quality. The truth is, with hard work and good planning, attending a public school can be just as beneficial as attending a private institution. However, there are some key differences between the two which you should know while conducting your search.

  • The major difference between public and private education is funding. Public colleges are funded by the government, while private colleges rely on tuition, fees and gifts to raise money. In return, tuition at a private institution may be much more expensive than that of a state school.
  • Tuition for both public and private colleges and universities is rising. Public four-year universities raised their tuition an average of 14.1% in 2003, while private four-year colleges had an average 6% tuition increase in the same year.
  • Attending an out of state public college may be more expensive than attending one in your home state. According to the College Board, an out of state student in public school pays an average of $7,046 more.
  • Private colleges are known to offer smaller classes, more personal attention, and less red tape.
  • Typically, private institutions are more competitive and therefore pickier in their selection process.

Remember that both public and private institutions vary greatly from state to state. Take into consideration geographic location, campus safety, academic focus, diversity, and other important factors. While a private education may promise better quality at a higher price, there are plenty of excellent public college choices which may fit your needs. In general, it is wise to choose a variety of colleges, both public and private, to research and visit before making your decision. If the ability to finance a private education is a deciding factor, don’t forget to speak to an advisor about the scholarships and grants you are eligible for.