Private and Public Universities



            In choosing what college to attend, one has to make varied decisions and compromises. This includes among others, the location, size, student population, program of study, costs involved, and the environment. However, the decision to attend a private or public university is by far the most subtle and challenging of them all. Such a choice is usually laden with various benefits and limitations, not to mention a myriad of stereotypes that informs public perception of these two institutions. Although private and public universities have some similarities, they also have differences in terms of tuition and student population, and degrees offered. The essay seeks to compare and contrast private and public universities based on such aspects as courses offered, source of funding, student population, and class size, among others.

             One major similarity between private and public universities is that both share common programs or courses offered (Bentley University, 2015). For example, a degree program in a business field at a private university could be similar to the one offered by a public university.   Another similarity between public and private universities is that there is emphasis on students learning and self-improvement. This is because the purpose of education is to challenge the students whether regardless of whether one attends a private university or a public one (Bentley University, 2015).

            However, private universities and public universities differ in terms of funding. This often affects students because the funding is associated with tuition fees. Nearly all public universities rely on state governments as their main source of funding. This funding goes towards covering the operational costs of public universities, including paying for staff and procuring research facilities. The tuition fees in public universities are much lower than in private universities. Moreover, private universities charge hefty tuition fees to their students for carrying out their operational needs (Fortenbury, 2013). Nonetheless, certain private universities also receive partial sponsorships from affiliate institutions, such as religious institutions.  Some private colleges also offer free tuition through merit scholarships or financial assistance to needy students. Some students attending private colleges whose families are categorised into specific income brackets.

            Public and private universities also differ in the size of the student population and degrees offered.  On average, public universities tend to have larger student population sizes in comparison with their private counterparts (Paterson's, 2017). Even then, the variation in student population among public universities could be quite considerable. For instance, whereas Arizona State University (a public institution) has a student population of over 60,000, Western University, another public university, has a student population of 28,864 (Western University, 2016). On the other hand, private universities tend to be smaller than public with some having only a few thousand students. However, some like New York University boast of a larger student population of 20,000.

            Many students attending public universities are perturbed by the enormous class sizes and the many majors available to them. This makes it harder to enroll in certain classes, not to mention that it also impacts their possibility of graduating on time. This is especially the case where there are limited resources in a certain department relative to the number of students. Moreover, certain introductory classes in public universities have students running into hundreds, thereby making it extremely hard for the students to develop close bonds with the class professors. 

            On account of their smaller class sizes, students at private universities commonly graduate on time Nonetheless, it is important to note that as a school’s academic caliber increases, there is also a tendency for its on-time graduation rate to also increase. Students admitted to top-ranked universities are motivated enough to take more course units so that they may graduate on time (Jacobs, 2013). Moreover, the drop out rate at such universities is relatively lower in comparison with universities ranked lower than them. This is the case for both private and public universities. 

            Public universities also give students a wide range of majors and degrees to choose from. Private universities, on the other hand, limited options of majors and degrees, with most of them having a specific focus on majors. For example, there are certain private universities that may focus on subjects like fine arts or computer science (Peterson's 2017).

            Private and public universities also differ in terms of demographics. For instance, public universities admit a higher number of in-state students who also end up paying lower tuition fees in comparison with out-of-state students (Peterson's, 2017). What this also means is that such public universities are far more likely to have a higher ratio of students from certain demographics. Conversely, private colleges do not take the issue of state residency too seriously, and this has led to considerable geographical diversity among their student population.

            In sum, there are various factors that determine what college one attends, including location, environment, and program of study. However, having to choose between a private university and a public university is by far the most challenging of them. A key similarity between both private and public universities is that they share certain programs, as well as a desire to enhance the student's self-improvement. However, private universities differ from public universities in terms of student size, number of programs offered, student diversity, and source of funding.




Bentley University (2015). Public vs. Private Universities: Which Is Better for Grad Students?

Fortenbury, J. (2013).  Should you choose a public or private college?            

Jacobs, D.L. (2013). Public or Private College. Is The Outcome Any Different

Peterson's (2017). Public University vs. Private College.

Western University (2016). Who we are.



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