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How Do I Compare the Value of a Public College or University to that of a Private One?

When considering the value of a college, you probably wonder whether a public or a private school offers more. These are two big considerations students and families take into account during the higher education search.  Many people tend to think a private institution offers more prestige, and in turn, may hold higher appeal to future employers. The truth is, there are benefits to both types of institution. Either could be better for your personal needs, based on a number of factors.

First you should understand what sets each type apart. The main difference comes down to funding source. State governments fund their public schools, while private institutions of higher learning are funded through donations, known as endowments, from alumni and other supporters. Here are some considerations when comparing the value of a public college or university to that of a private one.

Public School Admission Standards Favor State Residents

As a general rule, public colleges and universities will grant admissions preference to in-state students. The justification for this is that state tax dollars fund these schools. However, if an institution is particularly selective, the competition may be more level between qualified students regardless of their home state.

Both Types Offer Diversity

It’s likely that both types of institution will offer a broad range of diversity in their student populations. Frequently, students come from far geographic regions to attend private colleges, particularly prestigious ones. While public schools may attract students closer to home, they also tend to provide diversity due to their larger size.

Students May Spend More Time at Public Colleges

Because of competition for classes needed to meet graduation requirements, it can take longer to complete a degree at a public university.Graduation rates exceeding four years are not uncommon at such institutions. A longer matriculation means an additional cost. While still likely to cost less than private schools, this is something to think about when considering the value of a college.

Costs May Be More Comparable Than You’d Expect

The cost of a private school can be reduced quite a bit by the large array of financial aid opportunities that are typically available at such colleges. A public school of your choice that is out of state may actually cost close to that of a comparable private one.

Prestige Can Be Found in Both Types

Private colleges and universities are most often associated with prestige in the minds of many, but there are a number of public institutions that carry an elite reputation, as well. Look at both types that offer the programs you are considering to weigh the value. In addition, if you think you may go to graduate school, you might want to consider saving a more selective school for then to save some cost.

These are some of the aspects that affect the value of public and private colleges and universities. The ultimate value of a college depends on whether it meets your most important criteria and if the academic program you choose is one of quality standards.


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