The Ups and Downs of Public Universities

Some people are just chasing a degree, and aren’t too picky about what school help them earn it. Other students are more selective; they either want the best possible education in their field of study, or a degree from a school that will help them find future employment. For these students, finding the right college can be a long a difficult process.

Harvard is one of the most prestigious universities in the country, photo by Patricia Drury

Harvard is one of the most prestigious universities in the country, photo by Patricia Drury

Private colleges offer a lot of things students cannot find at public schools, but the reverse is also true. Which school is right for you, private or public? Let’s start by taking a look at the ups and down of public universities.

The Draw Backs

Face Time – It’s difficult to get any one on one time with a professor if there are dozens, or even hundreds, of people in your class. There will be posted office hours, but with enough students that may not be enough time. For more individualized attention and smaller class size, private school has the edge.

Lost in the Shuffle – With a much higher volume of students, the school itself (much like the individual professors) may not have enough resources or support staff to adequately help all the students. This goes beyond class size, and into health care, administrative support, library access, and more.

Reputation – Many private schools have spent a great deal of time and money developing a reputation, and contacts in a certain field. In this regard, some smaller schools can offer much higher potential for the future. In most cases, private schools have more prestigious reputations than public universities, and that might make your public school degree less valuable.

The Positives

Overall Cost – Here’s a scary figure for you. Business Week says that the average cost of a single year tuition at a public school is just over ten thousand dollars per year cheaper than a private school.  That’s no small amount of dollars, and that makes public schools a more viable option for a lot more students. Also factor in that public schools with Federal funding will provide many more opportunities to apply for grants, scholarships, and student loans. Bear in mind, these numbers are solely for tuition, not including books, room, board, or incidentals.

Class Selection – Overall, public schools have a much wider array, and a higher number of classes offered, than private schools. From more extensive liberal arts programs to more obscure elective courses, public schools are more diverse and have more depth of selection.

Equal Education – Remember what I said about the reputation of public schools? It turns out, it’s not justified. In general, public school professors are just as qualified and knowledgable, and the overall quality of education is more or less the same. So if reputation isn’t a factor, forget private school and get just as good an education from public school.

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