Among the many questions plaguing college hopefuls who are comparing potential schools is what the difference is between public and private colleges.

When you get down to it, the real question you are asking is which kind of school, a public or a private college, is better? 

Which type of colleges should you be putting on your list of schools to apply to?

March Consulting is here to help you with the answer.

The best college is the one that is best FOR YOU, and you should be building a college list spreadsheet that includes a range of schools that fit your personalized criteria.

There are many perfect-fit colleges - yes, for you specifically - but you have to know what you’re looking for. 

As passionate, long-time college admissions advisors, March Consulting can provide recommendations and resources to help you fine-tune your goals and achieve your dreams - while avoiding going into debt for school.

Read the article below to find out the difference between public and private colleges in terms of:

  • Money 

  • Size 

  • Degrees offered

  • Resources available

This is by no means a list of hard and fast rules, though. 

There are many exceptions.

So if you want assistance searching out and understanding all the nitty-gritty, we can go through this process with you one-on-one. Reach out to us using the button below:

Money Differences Between Public And Private Colleges

The biggest difference between public and private schools is all the cash stuff: different funding is received, different tuition is required, and different financial aid is available.

The myriad ways in which dollars go in and out of higher education institutions and their philosophies about handling money change dramatically between public and private colleges.

Public VS Private College Funding

Public schools are government-funded and non-profit. 

Private schools are funded by tuition, alumni donations, and endowments. 

While private colleges can be for-profit or non-profit, the ones with the most glowing reputations are usually non-profit.

The amount of money coming in from the government has the largest impact on…

Public vs Private College Tuition

Government subsidizing often means the initial price tag of public school tuition can be lower. 

They can afford to charge less. 

But that doesn’t *necessarily* mean that you’ll be paying more to attend a private school. Don’t forget about…

Public VS Private College Financial Aid

Private schools generally offer larger scholarship opportunities, grants, and tuition discounts.

So even if you want to attend a private school that has a higher cost on paper, it’s possible - if you research opportunities and prepare well - to take advantage of those opportunities. You could end up paying less for a great private college than you would for a public college.

The fact still remains, however, that you need a well-rounded picture of what will be the most successful learning experience and environment for you. 

So start with the money, but keep the other factors in mind.

Size Differences Between Public And Private Colleges

Generally speaking, public institutions are usually larger. 

Private schools are often scaled smaller.

This rough generalization applies to the number of students in each class, the overall geographical sprawl of the campus, and the volume of activities and clubs offered.

Class Size

If you want more students to meet and befriend, more of a social scene, and possibly a greater variety of styles/types of students, a larger public school might be for you. 

If you don’t want any large lecture classes where you can get lost in the masses, don’t get as much personal attention, and don’t know everyone around you, then you might want to consider a smaller private institution.

Campus Size

If you dream of wandering the farthest stretches of meandering buildings while still on campus or even having a school with multiple campuses and the wealth of opportunity that it provides, then aim for a larger school - which will likely be a public college.

If you feel an intimate, inclusive atmosphere will be more manageable, steer yourself toward a smaller school—likely a private college.

Size Of The Athletics Departments

Suppose athletics is the most important factor in making your college decisions. In that case, the best path for you should be based on specific, individual school departments and not on whether those schools are public vs private colleges. 

However, if athletics are just one of the things you’re considering, the overall trend is for sports opportunities to be more plentiful at larger public schools than at private colleges.

Size Of Extracurricular Offerings

Looking for a more diverse selection of extracurriculars than you imagined possible? 

Craving a more specialized selection of extracurriculars that have been recommended to you or that you’ve already been practicing for? 

These are essential factors to consider when narrowing down your list of schools to apply to. Once again, the size of school will probably determine the options available, but when researching schools, look carefully at what each one has to offer to find the ones that suit you.

Degrees At Public vs Private Colleges

Public universities can have a broader range of academic programs or degree offerings. 

Private, liberal arts schools tend to favor narrower fields of study for students who might head to college already knowing exactly what they want to learn and exactly what they want to do in their careers.

Beyond that, the reputation of a degree from a public vs private college is more dependent on the individual school rather than on the fact that they’re public or private. An employer is not usually likely to hire you or not based purely on that. 

You may have a greater opportunity of getting an interview or getting hired out of college if the boss is an alumnus or if they have a good professional relationship with anyone else who attended your school, but again, public vs private colleges usually won’t be the deciding factor.

Resources At Public vs Private Colleges

Facilities & Faculties: they vary *widely.* 

Public colleges have more government money to play with, so their research capabilities and support might be more extensive than those of smaller, private schools. 

On the other hand, the smaller private colleges might provide you with greater access to available facilities and less fighting with your peers for attention from your professors.

Either can be an advantage. Which is “better” depends entirely on the type of student you are and what kind of college life you want.

The nature of accreditation and experience requirements for public vs private colleges *can* determine the types of professors attracted to those respective places… but that doesn’t really affect the overall quality of those instructors. 

You can find excellent teachers all over the world.

So then… Which Is Better? Public Or Private College?

Ultimately, whether schools are public or private is probably not your biggest concern. 

We recommend starting with the money (ie: not just what you can afford but what you want to pay) because no one should have to go into debt for a great education and there are many perfect-fit college possibilities all over the world.

Be clear on what is best for you. 

Research which schools will bring you closest to your goals for your career and future. 

Apply to them and available scholarships. 

If you need help narrowing down options or searching out financial aid opportunities, March Consulting is available with best, most up-to-date tools

If you still have questions or you want personalized guidance through the insanely stressful and complex college admissions process, contact a March expert consultant here

Our full-time job is to make the college admissions process manageable for you and we are ready to help build your pathway to whatever “success” means to you and your family.