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Advantages of Attending a State University: An Overview

Still looking for the right college or university? There are pros and cons to every institution, from small private liberal arts colleges to sprawling public universities. Read on to learn more about the advantages of state universities and find out if one of these schools may be right for you.

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Why Should I Attend a State University?

For students considering a bachelor's degree program, the number of options may seem overwhelming. You can attend a small public college, a private liberal arts college, a competitive private research university or one of many large public state universities. Although it's best to apply to a variety of schools, knowing more about each type of institution can help you ultimately decide what school will be best for you. Here are some of the advantages of attending a state university:

Lower Costs, Less Debt

Published tuition and fees, also known as the 'sticker price', at state universities (also known as public universities) tend to be much lower than at other 4-year institutions, especially if you attend a school in your state of residency. According to the College Board, average tuition and fees for private non-profit institutions was $27,293 in 2010-11 (www.collegeboard.com). By contrast, it was $19,595 for out-of-state students and $7,605 for in-state students at a public 4-year university. Prices at state universities are kept low by state regulation because they're partially funded by state and federal governments.

Of course, a big difference exists between the sticker price and the actual cost of attendance. Private colleges and universities tend to be able to offer a lot more grant aid, particularly for students from low-income families, which can bring the net cost down as low or lower than the net cost of public universities. However, students at private non-profit institutions still tend to graduate with more debt. According to The Project on Student Debt, in 2008, the average debt for graduates from private, non-profit universities was $27,650, as compared to $20,200 for graduates from public universities (www.projectonstudentdebt.org).

More Academic Options

Whether you're still exploring what you want to study or you have a particular, hard-to-find major in mind, you'll have a lot more options at a state university. These institutions tend to be much larger than private schools and therefore have more faculty and a wider variety of subjects and majors.

Diverse Student Body

The size of state universities also typically means that they're more diverse. This means that you'll have more opportunities to both find a support group of people like you and get exposed to people with different backgrounds and ideas.

Lots of Activities

Public universities are often bustling with activities outside of the classroom. From dozens of student clubs to social events and on-campus performances, you'll find something to do almost every night. Opportunities for things like sports, student government and fraternities and sororities tend to be higher at public universities as well.

More Resources

Although private institutions typically have larger endowments than public ones, their smaller size often means that they don't have as many libraries, gyms and other amenities. There are of course a few exceptions, such as larger private universities like Stanford University or New York University (NYU), but on the whole, public state universities are likely to offer more on-campus resources.

Larger Classes

Large class sizes can be a drawback for some students, but it's a benefit for others. If you prefer lecture-format courses or are shy about speaking up in class, you may enjoy the anonymity afforded by the large, lecture hall classes that are common to state universities.

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