Private colleges and universities come in a broad variety of sizes, backgrounds, affiliations and prestige. In some instances, the distinction between public and private institutions of higher learning may be blurred, in others it is quite clear-cut. In choosing between attending a private college or university or attending a public college or university there are a number of factors to be considered: cost, class-size, personal background, educational goals and living arrangements.
Budget is a foremost factor in choice of institute of higher learning for most students. As a general rule, public colleges and universities receive state or federal funding and can therefore charge less tuition per credit hour. However, students attending private institutions may still receive grants and student loans with which to fund their education. Many private colleges and institutions also offer scholarships, work/study arrangements and internally funded grants.
Public colleges, since they are funded by federal and state money, must not differentiate between applicants on basis of their ethnic, religious or social backgrounds. Private colleges may be founded specifically to support a particular religion or creed. This limitation can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending upon personal point of view.
Private colleges may focus upon a particular area of interest, such as teaching, medical training, or religious ministry. Although most will still include basic education requirements such as English, Mathematics, sciences and foreign languages, the curriculum may be more restricted than that offered by public colleges. This does, however, help focus class choices for career-minded students who need to fast-track their educations.
Entrance requirements for private colleges may be different from the requirements for public colleges; universities may have more stringent requirements than local colleges. Returning students who made educational errors in their younger days or students with limited educational access during high school may be more readily accepted by a private school than by a large state school.
Private colleges come in a broad range of academic excellence, as do public colleges. Private colleges, while needing to meet accreditation standards, may be judged differently from state schools. A quick and easy way to check the standing of a private college is to ask the local public college or university if they will accept transfer credits from the school you are considering. If you think you may need to attend a public university later on, the answer needs to be "yes."
Although some private colleges and universities are quite large, as a general rule, a private college will offer smaller class size and more personal attention as an incentive to attract students. This can be a real benefit for students who are first generation college students or who have areas in their academic background that need remediation. On the other hand, a large university may have a bigger staff, offer more variety in teaching styles, and have more resources with which to accommodate special needs.
Depending upon the student's career choice, sometimes the reputation of the school will affect future employability. Some private schools are quite prestigious, and many offer internships or entrepreneurial opportunities as part of their training process. Others are garden-variety training centres, which also have their place in the world of education.
Most public four-year colleges and universities offer campus housing, whereas community colleges, private trade schools and some private colleges may not. This is a consideration that needs to be factored into the cost of your education. Typically, dormitory housing on private campuses is more expensive than that offered by public institutions.
The choice to attend a private institute of higher learning or a public one rests on a number of things: personal background, career choice, availability, housing needs, age, educational background and financial status. Choosing a college that is a personal fit is an important decision; changing schools later may result in loss of credits or having to retake classes. Read all the literature from your prospective schools carefully, and use other sources of information to check their educational credibility.