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Private vs. Public College: Which Is the Better Option?

private colleges private universities public colleges public universities Nov 19, 2022

Trying to decide what kind of college to attend is one of the most difficult decisions you'll make in your academic career. Private colleges, public colleges, and even community colleges offer a wide array of services that can appeal to prospective students of all backgrounds.

As any good college admissions coach would tell you, weighing your options for which type of college you'd like to attend is the best thing you can do to make an informed decision. The choice of private vs. public college doesn't have to be an impossible one. With a good college admissions coach, you can be assured that any decision you make will be solid and well-informed.


What Are the Major Differences Between Public and Private Colleges?

Most people know that there is a difference between private and public colleges, but not many people know the extent of the differences between the two. Private vs. public college is a hotly debated topic on which is best, but here are some of the main differences:

Cost of Attendance

Public universities are heavily subsidized by the government and, as a result, can charge much lower tuition rates to students. Public universities can also significantly lower the in-state tuition costs to promote more in-state attendance. This is because in-state students that remain in the state can continue to pay taxes and fund the costs of the university. In short, government subsidies cover a portion of the cost of operation so that students do not have to pay full price. Nine times out of ten, a public university will be less costly to attend than a private college.

In contrast, private universities rely heavily on students' tuition to cover their operating costs and, as a result, tend to be much more expensive. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics gives more accurate estimates of the current college costs. In 2020-2021, the average tuition cost at a private university was $30,065. In comparison, the average cost of tuition at a public university for out-of-state students was $18,809, and the average in-state student tuition was $8,487.

Before deciding on a university based on price, consider speaking with a college admissions consultant or college admissions coach. They may be able to assist you with making the best decision, regardless of cost.


Availability of Financial Aid

Both private and public colleges offer federal financial aid through FAFSA, but public universities are more limited in other scholarships and grants they can give students. Instead, many public universities offer work-study programs to help offset student costs. Because government money helps fund the university, the majority of additional scholarships and grants are supported by the same and are in much more limited supply.

However, private universities usually have more money in grants and scholarships to offer students. Because they are privately owned and operate as businesses, they have more leeway in giving tuition discounts in higher amounts and with more frequency. As a result, even though public universities are cheaper at the outset, getting the right grants and scholarships at a private university can make it less expensive.

This is one of the many reasons why having a good college admissions coach can be a vital piece to making the right decision.


Degree Program Offerings

If you aren't sure about what you might want to major in college, then a public college is going to be your best option. The difference between a private and public college is that public colleges are often larger, meaning they have a wider variety of degree choices. You're able to attend a wide array of classes to find what interests you and what your niche is.

Private colleges, however, tend to offer a smaller selection of degree choices. Many also offer specialized study programs in those select courses so that they may have more specialized courses within that program.

Religious Affiliation

By law, public colleges cannot have any formal affiliation with religion because they are partly funded by the government and fall under the idea of the separation of church and state. Private colleges, however, are not funded by the government and are allowed to be religiously affiliated if they choose to be. Not all private colleges have religious affiliations, but some do.

Before choosing a private college, be sure to consult with a college admissions consultant. Private colleges with religious affiliations may require strict adherence to the religion for secular students and religious students alike, but most do not. However, speak with your college admissions coach before making any final decisions.

What You Should Look For

When choosing a college, deciding between private vs. public college involves other factors regarding your college experience.


Learning Environment and Class Size

Students who are better at independent study are likely to do better in public colleges. At public colleges, professors will have office hours, but it is almost entirely up to the student to seek additional help if needed. After all, class sizes of a hundred students or more are not uncommon in public colleges, and professors will not be able to remember every one of their students' names.

Private colleges, however, are ideal for students who might need a little more assistance in their learning. Private colleges have smaller campuses and class sizes, leading to more intimacy in the classroom. Professors can easily form relationships with students, which aids in helping students to receive additional instruction and guidance both in and out of class.

Campus Size

Campus size at a private college is typically much smaller than the average public college. There are usually fewer buildings, a smaller library, fewer dorms, and fewer methods of on-campus entertainment like auditoriums and movie theaters.

While private college towns aren't ghosting towns, they also usually don't have the thriving off-campus life that public universities do. They often lack off-campus activities, transportation, restaurants, and more. When making your decision, take a look at the activities around you to see what you can do when you aren't on campus.

So What Should I Choose?

The question remains: should you choose a public or private college? Ultimately, the choice is yours. Only you can decide what's most important to you in a college experience, including weighing each option's pros and cons before making a final decision.

That is why it is so important to speak with a college admissions consultant like those at Clark College Consulting. Even having a listening ear can be the difference between feeling like you've made a good or a bad decision. If you're interested in speaking with our college admissions coach, contact us today!


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