Public versus Private Universities?

Difference Between Public and Private Universities? Ivy Central


The simple difference between Public and Private Universities is that Public universities are paid for by the state’s taxpayers and private universities run on endowments from alumni etc. This changes the way resources are allocated, and mainly the way students get admitted. For all public universities, the Common Data Set would say that the criteria for admission for state residency are “very important”. The simple logic to this is that public or state universities, given that they are funded through resident taxes, prioritize local or domestic students over out-staters or international applicants. Therefore, most public universities will have about 2%(such as at U.Maryland) to 8% International students.

For the purpose of this blog, let’s consider differences under these sub-headings – financial, academic, and social.

Financial Differences: Cost of Attendance

Attending a public university can be really affordable if you qualify as an in-state student. Even international students do not need to spend exorbitant amounts of money as opposed to what they would at a Private University. The reason again being that private unis run on student tuition and heavy endowments.

Academic Differences: Size, Support, and Facilities

Your academic performance at a university can be influenced by its size, the support you receive from faculty and peers, as well as the facilities the university provides. Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

1. Size

Most public universities are large, having students from 20,000 and above. Some of them such as the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign have over 30,000 students. One of the main reasons for this largeness is that they need to accommodate more instate students as these unis are government funded and the obvious objective is that more students opt to pursue further education post high school. Statistics show that only 37.5% of the US population aged 25 and above had graduated from college or any higher education institution in 2020 as opposed to 7.7% in 1960. To continue this upward trend in creating an educated populace, most public universities have a massive graduate population as well. Naturally, these campuses are huge and spread out to accommodate thousands of students and the facilities they need.

Private universities on the other hand may be very small such as the liberal arts colleges and unis or could be mid sized universities such as Northwestern University with approximately 8,000 to 9,000 students.

2. Support

Public Universities, given the large number of students, often ask post doctoral or graduate students to assist and advise undergraduate students. Sometimes they also take over introductory classes and this may actually work out really well for some students and in certain cases. Although if you would rather prefer having a professor teach you all the courses you’re taking, then public unis may not be ideal for you. Here’s where private universities step up their game. Professors at private unis often have an open door policy and oftentimes also invite students for cookies and tea at their own homes, as they tend to live on the campus or nearby. This accessibility can prove to be really beneficial if you need more academic support.

The other aspect to consider is career advising. If you’re someone who needs extra support to chart your academic path, then private unis could provide that to you through its career advising services. Given the limited number of students, every advisor has more time available for each of their students.

3. Facilities

Given state funding, public universities are known to update their research and lab facilities with the latest equipment and technology. Private Universities are able to do the same through endowments. However, not all private institutions get enough endowments to constantly upgrade their facilities – especially the smaller ones. This could be a challenge for students keen on pursuing top-notch research or hands-on lab experiences at small colleges.

Social Differences: Diversity, Social Scene, Housing

1. Diversity

Public Universities, while large, reserve their seats for in-staters. This could bring in a uni-dimensional mindset to that university, simply because most of the student community is coming from that state. The UCs increased seats for Californians recently, so it could be assumed that a Californian mindset would govern these campuses. But, who’s complaining?!

Private Universities attract a multi-cultural population also because the opportunities and the environment to engage with students from across the globe is more accessible, especially if you qualify as an introvert.

2. Social Scene

The social scene at public universities is typically governed by athletics. You may just become best friends with your neighbor at a soccer game.

Both public and private universities offer a Greek life, though not all of them of course. This means pledging allegiance to a sorority or a fraternity club for the time you’re at the university and beyond. They may provide an excellent way to network, and find a support system away from home. However, few Greek clubs have been controversial for issues regarding alcohol abuse, sexism, racism, and elitism. Therefore, it is important that you talk to peers about the club you are keen on joining.

3. Housing

Public Universities are often called commuter schools, as a majority of their students live off-campus and commute to college every day. This can make a boarder feel lonely during weekends if they haven’t formed their own circle of friends who live on campus. Most private universities offer a four-year housing plan, and a lot of them make it compulsory for freshmen to live on campus. This helps you bond with nearly everyone and expand your social circle.

Public or Private: Is there a better fit for you?

Well, it depends, doesn’t it?

Typically speaking if you are someone who enjoys interaction, likes to really know the people around you, needs a smaller environment to learn and grow, a private university could be a better fit.

If you like a larger-than-life social scene, enjoy the rah rah of school spirit, and you would happily take control of your learning, then you would enjoy being at a public university.

Working with study abroad consultants, overseas education consultants, or, as more commonly known, college counselors, can help you plan ahead and make those high school years count. Ivy Central offers exceptional focus to help you prepare for college admissions throughout the high-schooling years. Start today!

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