What’s The Difference Between Public And Private Universities

As you’re searching for the perfect college to apply to, you will see the words, “public” and “private,” many times.

It’s important to know the difference between a public and private university. While the logistics always depend specifically on the college, here are a few main differences between the two:

  • Who owns the college?

Public universities are schools that are financially supported by the state where the college is located. Private ones are funded by student tuition and donations. Because they do not rely on the state for money, private colleges do not have to follow state mandated curriculum and graduation guidelines. Many private colleges create academic plans specifically for them.

  • Which costs more?

Again, it depends specifically on the college, but generally speaking, private institutions cost more. According to a 2011 College Board report, as reported by US News…

“Factoring in tuition, fees, and room and board, the ‘sticker price’ for the 2011-2012 school year at the average private institution was $38,589, while in-state students at public four-year institutions paid just over $17,000.”

Remember also, if you are a resident of the state of the public university, tuition cost is much lower than out of state.

  • Who has a better education plan?

Just because a college is public or private, that does not dictate its educational value. Some of US News & World Report‘s 2011 top 50 national universities are public institutes such as, University of California-Los Angeles, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and the University of Michigan. However, Ivy Leagues such as Yale, Harvard and Princeton are private.

  • What about class size?

Teaching styles may be different at a public vs. private institutions because of class sizes. Public institutes typically have a larger enrollment and, “have a percentage of classes with under 20 students ranging from 30% to 60%. Whereas private institutions in the top 50 have a percentage of classes with under 20 students ranging from 47% to 80%,” according to CollegeBound.net.

  • What is the difference in admissions?

Private colleges typically are harder to get into then public colleges. Private Ivy League universities have a strong academic admission competition, while in other cases the fact that the school is just smaller makes your chances of getting in less.

It’s always good to do your research and while the differences are there, you should never write off a college just because it is private or public. Keep your mind open to any school that you love.

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Lisa Manente

Lisa Manente

Lisa Manente is a senior at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. She will be graduating with the BA in Media Studies and Communications in May. Editing the Entertainment section for her university’s newspaper and magazine has fueled her passion for entertainment journalism, which is the career path she plans to explore. In her free time she enjoys reading, traveling, listening to music, and catching up on celebrity gossip.