Comparing Public and Private Colleges

When you first start thinking about colleges or universities you may want to attend, it’s important to really consider all your options. Don’t dismiss a private college immediately because of the cost of tuition, and don’t rule out public universities because of the number of students. Consider the pros and cons of each and let those points help guide your decision.Comparing-Public-and-Private-Colleges

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  • Size: In general, enrollment at private colleges is much smaller than at public universities. At a private university, total enrollment may be a few thousand students, while at a large state university, there may be 10,000, 20,000 or even more than 30,000 students. The physical size of the campus usually follows the same logic.
  • Programs: Public colleges and universities typically offer a wide range of undergraduate programs. They may be known for research or specialty programs, but those specific programs may be geared more toward graduate students. At a private college and university, fewer degree programs may be offered, especially at liberal arts colleges or schools of engineering or hard sciences.
  • Tuition: Public colleges and universities receive some level of financial support from the government, so tuition costs are typically much lower than at private colleges, which must rely on students, alumni and other individuals to pay salaries and maintain the college. To counter that, private colleges often have endowments that can help lower tuition costs for students through scholarships and grants.
  • Class size: Private colleges often report smaller class sizes or student-to-professor ratios while public universities typically have larger class sizes or more lecture-style classes. At both types of colleges, larger classes are more typical with general education classes and reduced class sizes are more common with classes required for majors and minors.
  • Graduation rate: Students at private colleges and universities are more likely to graduate in four years, on average, than public universities. This may be caused by students at public universities having more difficulty getting into required classes and/or changing majors more frequently.

Remember that this information is general, and some private and public colleges are extremely different than the majority of schools in their category. When you make your choice, think about your goals for college and the future, costs, class size, culture and environment as well as the pros and cons of different colleges.

By: Iowa Student Loan