Public Universities vs Private Universities in the US

August 02, 2017

How likely is it that the way an institution is funded is taken into consideration when it comes to picking a university to attend? The factor of the institution being privately or publicly funded would not come up on top as opposed to a more common or obvious factor such as the university’s reputation or its distance from home.


To bring attention to this factor, here we have a list of things you should know when it comes to choosing between a public university and a private one in the US.

What does publicly funded and privately funded mean?

Publicly funded: Universities that are publicly funded obtain some funding from their respective state governments.

Privately funded: Universities that are privately funded rely heavily on tuition funds and private contributions.


What is affected when an institution is publicly or privately funded?

1. Cost of tuition fees


image via Independent Voter Network

Public universities: The influx of funding from the state governments allow publicly funded universities to subsidise the cost of tuition.

Private universities: The tuition rates at privately funded universities are generally higher due to the fact that they do not receive funds from state legislatures.


2. Educational choices


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Public universities: There is typically a wider choice of majors offered at publicly funded universities. This may appeal to school leavers who are undecided of what to major in.

Private universities: Privately funded universities on the other hand offer a smaller range of majors which allows them to have a particular academic focus.


3. The size of classes


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Public universities: Some classes at public universities may have up to 200 students enrolled in it.

Private universities: Classes at private universities are smaller. This ensures more one-on-one interaction between students and tutors.


4. Demographic


image via Times Higher Education

Public universities: In-state students make up the majority at public universities due to the fact that they have a higher chance of admission as opposed to students who apply from out of state.

Private universities: There is a greater geographical diversity among students in private universities because they do not prioritise state residency.


See also: Top 10 Public US Universities

See also: Top 10 Private US Universities

For a more localised take on this issue, you may read it here.