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Tips for Comparing Public and Private Colleges

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  • 0:03 Public vs. Private
  • 1:00 Support
  • 3:28 Opportunity
  • 5:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Students are often faced with the choice of whether to attend a private or a public university. How can you decide? Watch this lesson to find out more about how to compare private and public colleges and what resources they have.

Public vs. Private

Anais is excited. She's about to graduate from high school, and she's been accepted to two different colleges. One of them is her local state university and the other is a small private college nearby. Which one should she attend?

There are many different things that someone like Anais should consider when figuring out which college to attend. One of them is the type of college that it is. A public college (or public university) is a college funded in part by state taxes. In contrast, a private college (or private university) is a college that does not receive state funds. Instead, a private college must rely on tuition and alumni donations for all of its funding. So which one is right for Anais? Let's look closer at how she can compare the two colleges, public and private, that she's been accepted to so that she can make an informed decision.

Support

One thing that Anais should compare between the two colleges is the level of support that she receives from each location. What does it mean to receive support? It can mean many things. But there are four general types of support that Anais can look for at each school.

1.) Class Size. Generally, private schools are smaller and offer smaller class sizes. Students will generally receive more help and attention in smaller classes. But this isn't always the case, and class sizes always vary depending on what the class is. An introductory class that all first-year students have to take is going to be larger at any school than a highly specialized class that is only open to seniors in a specific major. Even so, Anais can compare the average class size or compare the class size of the average first-year introductory courses between the private and public colleges.

2.) Support Services. Support services can be anything from career counseling to mental health support to linking students with older students who serve as mentors. Generally, larger schools offer more robust support services and, as we've already noted, public colleges are often larger. Again, though, it's not always the case that support services are better at public universities, so Anais will want to compare the support services at the two colleges she's planning on attending.

3.) Graduation Rates. Technically, this is not a form of support but a product of it. That is, schools that offer the most support for their students tend to have the highest graduation rates, or the percentage of students who start at the school and actually graduate from the school. Knowing if a school has a high graduation rate or not can tell Anais what levels of support students receive to help get them to graduation.

4.) Financial Aid. Because they aren't funded by state taxes, private colleges generally charge more in tuition. However, they also often offer more financial aid to their students. Once a student subtracts scholarships and grants from the cost of attendance, many students find that it's actually cheaper to go to a private college than to a public one. The actual price tag associated with each college is something Anais should definitely take into consideration when comparing colleges.

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