Public & Private Colleges and Universities

The main difference between public schools and private schools is that public schools are government-run, while private schools operate on funds from tuition and private donations. Another big difference is that public schools usually cost less, particularly if you're a resident of the state where the school is located.

Beyond that, it's difficult to draw general distinctions. Private schools can be small or large, highly selective or not so selective. Some state schools are very small, and are attended mostly by students who live in the area. Others are large, flagship schools that are widely known, and attract applicants from across the country.

While you're weighing options, consider these factors:

  • Choosing a public school in your home state could cut your tuition in half. You can expect to pay far less at your state's public school(s) than at any other type of school.
  • Private schools sometimes have smaller class sizes and a better student/teacher ratio, but that's not always true. Most schools will publish data for you to compare in this regard.
  • Even the most expensive schools — public or private — don't always offer your program of choice. Make sure that what you're interested in is available before deciding on a school based on its stature.

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