Pros and Cons of Public vs. Private Colleges

Flickr user Ron Cogswell

There’s plenty of myths and commonly held beliefs about public schools vs. private ones. But what are the concrete differences? What’s a misconception? Is there a difference between a state-funded school and a privately-funded one? Is one better than the other? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each so you can better decide.


Upfront, the differences seem obvious: public state-funded schools have a lower posted cost of attendance, making them oftentimes a more affordable choice, especially in-state.

Privately funded schools seem more expensive, but may have more financial aid available in terms of scholarships and grants—so most students don’t end up paying the full hefty sticker price anyway.

However, don’t let “sticker” price alone determine whether or not a school is right for you. What really matters in the net price estimate—or what you’re actually likely to pay once scholarships and financial aid are taken into account.

Fortunately, College Raptor can give you a net price estimate for every college in the US! For FREE!

Campus Life

When looking into prospective colleges, you should consider not only tuition, diversity, and what kind of campus life you will experience, but you should consider what type of campus you would prefer. Some students thrive on large, urbanized campuses while others prefer a smaller, cozier, and more intimate learning atmosphere. Campus life plays a big part in student happiness so put some thought into this decision.

Generally speaking, public schools tend to be larger, with bigger class sizes. For some, this can be an exciting chance to meet many different people. On the other hand, private schools tend to be smaller, which other students prefer.

Quality of Education

When it comes to a high-quality and valuable college experience, many state-funded schools are just as good as their privately-funded counterparts. In fact, many public colleges—like the University of Virginia or UC Berkeley—consistently make Best Colleges in the US rankings lists!

Other factors to look for in a quality education include campus size, the ratio of instructors to students, technology resource availability, and job placement after graduation.

So Which is Best?

Take into consideration what you want to major in. Think about class sizes, the kind of campus environment you might be comfortable in, and what you can afford when it comes to your college education. Private doesn’t always mean better and public doesn’t always mean larger but lower quality education. Take the above factors into consideration and “shop around” before making a final decision


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