Advantages & disadvantages of private universities

Updated April 17, 2017

The process of applying to college can be stressful for parents and students alike. Sometimes, the first decision to be made is whether the applicant should attend a private or public institution. Private and public universities offer different resources and opportunities, and there are advantages and disadvantages for each.

Pro: Size

Private universities tend to be smaller than public state universities. This is often perceived as an advantage to students who want to attend school on a campus that is small and easy to navigate. Smaller universities also tend to offer smaller class sizes, enabling students to receive more attention from professors and to have a more significant role in the classroom.

Con: Cost

Private universities typically cost a lot more to attend than public universities. This is both because private schools receive less financial assistance from the state and because the students that attend private schools may not qualify for scholarships and grants that are received by students at public universities. Tuition and room and board fees at private universities sometimes double or triple these costs at state schools.

Con: Admissions

Private schools tend to be more selective with admissions. Highly competitive private schools only offer admission to students at the top of their graduating class that also boast high test scores and a wide array of extra-curricular activities. These criteria disqualify many applicants from the start. On the other hand, the calibre of private universities may be perceived as an advantage to prospective students seeking a competitive learning environment.

Pro: Reputation

Private universities tend to have a reputation for being elite. This can be advantageous to graduates seeking admission to graduate school or employment in the professional world. Graduate schools and potential employers tend to value the education of private universities, perhaps due to private schools' competitive admissions process.

Con: Fewer Sports and Extracurricular Activities

Because private universities are often smaller, they may not offer all of the sports, clubs and extra-curricular activities that bigger, public institutions do. Further, although smaller, private schools often have athletic teams in more popular sports, such as football and basketball, they have fewer NCAA teams. For big sports fans, this is a disadvantage, since the school's teams may not attract the huge crowds and national attention that competitive teams at big schools do.

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About the Author

Audrey Farley began writing professionally in 2007. She has been featured in various issues of "The Mountain Echo" and "The Messenger." Farley has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Richmond and a Master of Arts in English literature from Virginia Commonwealth University. She teaches English composition at a community college.