Public vs. Private Schools

Trying to make the right decision on a college can be difficult and frustrating. The first question that may come to mind is whether you should choose a public or private college and the advantages and disadvantages of both. What is the difference between a private college and public college education? Are you more likely to become successful in your field if you attend a private college?

Overview of Public Colleges and Universities

What is a public college and how does it differ from a private college? Public colleges and universities are founded and even partially funded by state and other government entities. Each one of the 50 states in the United States has at least one public college or university and most have more than 10. One of the biggest differences you will notice between a public college and private college is the cost of tuition.

The majority of public colleges are state universities, which means these schools are at least partially funded by the state in which they are located. This state funding makes the tuition at these universities and colleges more affordable for students who live in that state. However, students who choose to attend college in another state will pay a higher tuition than in-state students, but it is still likely to be less expensive than what those same students would pay attending a private school.

Private Colleges and Universities

The United States has many private colleges and universities. The difference between these institutions and public college is the government has no influence over the way they operate. While some of the private colleges may receive some pubic funding, it is minimal compared to what the public and state universities receive. In addition to the higher tuition, some of the private universities do not have accreditation, which can have a negative effect on your entry into your career field of choice. While this does not pertain to all of them, it is essential to conduct research before you finalize your plans to attend a private college.

Are There Advantages to Attending a Private College?

Money is the major factor that deters many students from attending private colleges. However, you do want to remember even though the tuition is high, private colleges have a substantial amount of money from endowments available for scholarships—this alone makes them competitive with the rates the state schools charge. If you do well in high school, you stand a good chance of qualifying for an annual "tuition break" that you can review as long as you are attending college.     

There are other advantages to attending private colleges and universities in addition to the availability of scholarship money and the prestige.

• Fewer students in attendance thus smaller classes allowing more attention from the professors
• Higher retention rates and graduation rates. Approximately 79 percent of private school students graduate in four years compared to only 49 percent who attend state universities
• Strong alumni network for helping graduates find employment

One important thing to consider when applying to college is to choose at least one public school in your state—this offers you a better chance of acceptance and can prevent you from being left out in the cold when it's time to begin college.

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