When sending off your college applications to the higher education institutions of your choice, it may be tough to decide if a private university is the better option over a publicly funded school. There are quite a few remarkable differences between a public and private university. The main difference lies in how the school is funded. Because of this, a private school can offer pathways to positions in your chosen field through personal relationships and can open doors to opportunities.

Funding for public universities and private colleges also greatly affects tuition and the related costs for attending the school. If you are expecting to apply to a private university, do your homework before beginning the entry paperwork and writing your essay.

Public and Private School Tuition Breakdown

Public colleges were originally founded by state governments to offer citizens a chance to gain a higher education at an affordable rate. State governments continue to subsidize public universities and community colleges. Board members and trustees are held accountable for how the federal and state funds are spent. The public funds keep the cost of attending a public college lower than private school tuition.

A private school receives funds through donors, investors and private contributions from family and alumni. Tuition rates tend to be higher, sometimes significantly, because the college expects the attending student to carry the larger financial burden through parental funds, awards, grants or scholarships.

Aspects of a Private University

Private school admissions officials tend to be much more discerning in their screening process of incoming students. The process and rules usually are more rigorous for applying to private universities. A private college usually accepts a slew of scholarships. The admissions officials or guidance counselors often assist in locating lucrative financial aid for stellar students and offer financial incentives to stellar students.

While a private education may appear to be more beneficial and carry more prestige, there are some surprising advantages and disadvantages of a private education.

Advantages of a Private University

A private university tends to have smaller classes. Professors are then able to spend more time with individual students to support their academic pursuits. With a smaller student body, the school culture can be quite tight knit with a heavy emphasis on sports and group events.

While the tuition is higher, a private college is usually more involved in assisting its student body with finding financial aid through awards, grants and scholarships to offset the higher cost of attending the institution. In that respect, the pricier private school can end up costing just as much as the more affordable public college.

Private university advantages include a wider network of professionals with an invested interest in networking with the college’s more ambitious students.

Disadvantages of a Private University

Aside from the higher annual tuition and more competitive application process, there are a few ways in which a private college may not be as advantageous to attend as a public school.

One disadvantage of a private university is the small student body. Rules are more stringent for students who live on the campus of a private school. Some private universities insist that students follow rigid rules and request permission to leave campus under certain circumstances.

Top U.S. Private Universities

Both public and private universities can have stellar reputations. Before applying to any specific university, do your due diligence and check out the college’s reputation. A strict campus life may be just what you need to stay on track, or it may be too stifling for you to truly shine in your college career.

Some of the premiere private colleges include:

  • University of Mount Olive
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Sierra Nevada College
  • Harvard University
  • Pomona College
  • Bowdin College
  • Duke University
  • Dartmouth College
  • Vanderbilt University

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About the Author

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.