A private university is a four-year school that is funded by student tuition and private endowments from alumni, corporations and friends of the university. Private schools are an alternative to public, state-supported institutions. States typically have multiple private schools that offer strengths and weaknesses relative to public schools.
Private schools typically maintain a high degree of academic excellence. Selective entrance criteria helps private schools maintain their high standards. This prestige benefits graduates in the marketplace, because their universities carry positive weight in the minds of potential employers. Private schools also tend to offer highly qualified and capable faculty and strong technology and classroom resources.
Private colleges usually have more control over the academic environment than schools relying on public funding. Maintaining a strong teacher-to-student ratio is an example. Private colleges often offer class sizes of 25 or fewer students. This allows each student to actively participate and to get noticed by professors. It also allows students to develop a stronger sense of community and peer relationships for social and academic purposes.
One of the most significant differences between public and private schools are the costs. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost for tuition, room and board in U.S. private colleges in the 2009-2010 school year was more than double the same cost at public institutions. However, many students do receive financial aid, including scholarships and grants, which are funded by endowments and private donations.
Some states have laws that support ease in transferring from a community college to a state-funded university or between two public schools. Transferring from a private school may be more difficult if academic standards and program requirements are quite different. Additionally, private schools may not offer the same level of student diversity as public schools, which can limit a student's cultural development and diversity awareness during school.