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Private Colleges and Universities: The Basics

By Peterson's Staff updated on Tuesday, January 22, 2013

If you're looking into colleges and universities, you may immediately find yourself caught up at a massive divide in the world of academia. On the one side, there are private colleges, privately owned and operated institutions. On the other side, there are public colleges, associated with state governments and subsidized in some capacity. Which one is right for you? Well, that's a tough question, but we're here to provide you with some important information on private colleges and universities, so that you might be able to make a good choice.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not private colleges and universities are right for you will not be made at that level; you'll have to judge each individual college and university, public or private, on its own merits and flaws. Some public universities may very well be better suited to your interests than many private universities, but some private colleges may similarly have exactly what you're looking for, and limiting yourself to only public universities and colleges would ruin your chances of finding these perfect options.

That being said, there are certain things which you can generally expect from private colleges and universities, which it's valuable to keep in mind while you're making your decisions.

The Price Tag of Private Colleges and Universities

Most private colleges and universities are likely to be tagged with a higher price than public universities or colleges might have. This is primarily a result of the fact that private institutions do not provide some of the financial help that public colleges might, and therefore the costs associated with private colleges and universities must be increased accordingly.

Many private colleges and universities will have ample opportunities for financial aid, however, which may very well make up the gap between the prices of the differing kinds of institution, depending upon your exact situation. These opportunities for financial aid will vary from college to college, but may include scholarships, as well as need-based aid. This means that the so-called "sticker price" of private colleges and universities, while generally higher than the sticker price of public colleges and universities, is not actually the price you'll pay for attendance to private colleges and universities. In turn, this makes it critical to take into account the financial aid offered to you specifically when considering whether a given private college or university is a better option than a public college or university.

The Culture of Private Colleges and Universities

Private colleges and universities are also often more recognized for offering a particular type of institution, with a particular culture. This is significant because many public universities are much more focused upon providing an open and varied environment, which may appeal less than a highly focused environment created by a highly focused private college or university. For example, a public university or college will never be a women's college or university. On the other hand, women's colleges do still exist among private colleges and universities. If you are a female student and the idea of a women's college is appealing, then you would do well to look at private colleges and universities.

The Size of Private Colleges and Universities

Private colleges and universities are also generally of a smaller overall size than public colleges and universities. This is because in many cases, private colleges and universities are more restrictive and difficult to enter into, and the student body is smaller as a result. This is not a definitive fact, however, as there are many very large public colleges or universities, just as there are some very small public colleges and universities.

How do I choose?

Ultimately, your decision should, as mentioned previously, be based primarily on the individual facts and aspects of each college or university in which you are interested, as opposed to be based on the public or private status of any given college or university. But keep in mind that there are many great private colleges out there, and finding one suited for you is just a matter of looking.

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

More articles by this author
Find a college that's right for you!
1Choose a state

2Choose a major
3Choose a degree type


Colleges you might like...

Wells College
Aurora, NY
  • Type Private
  • Setting Rural
  • Size 534 students
  • In-State $35,200
  • Out-of-State $35,200
  • Acceptance Moderately Difficult
View Full School Profile
Bryant University
Smithfield, RI
  • Type Private
  • Setting Suburban
  • Size 3,287 students
  • In-State $38,199
  • Out-of-State $38,199
  • Acceptance Moderately Difficult
View Full School Profile
  • Type Public
  • Setting Urban
  • Size 13,069 students
  • In-State $5,430
  • Out-of-State $14,550
  • Acceptance Moderately Difficult
View Full School Profile

 

Private Colleges and Universities: The Basics

If you're looking into colleges and universities, you may immediately find yourself caught up at a massive divide in the world of academia. On the one side, there are private colleges, privately owned and operated institutions. On the other side, there are public colleges, associated with state governments and subsidized in some capacity. Which one is right for you? Well, that's a tough question, but we're here to provide you with some important information on private colleges and universities, so that you might be able to make a good choice.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not private colleges and universities are right for you will not be made at that level; you'll have to judge each individual college and university, public or private, on its own merits and flaws. Some public universities may very well be better suited to your interests than many private universities, but some private colleges may similarly have exactly what you're looking for, and limiting yourself to only public universities and colleges would ruin your chances of finding these perfect options.

That being said, there are certain things which you can generally expect from private colleges and universities, which it's valuable to keep in mind while you're making your decisions.

The Price Tag of Private Colleges and Universities

Most private colleges and universities are likely to be tagged with a higher price than public universities or colleges might have. This is primarily a result of the fact that private institutions do not provide some of the financial help that public colleges might, and therefore the costs associated with private colleges and universities must be increased accordingly.

Many private colleges and universities will have ample opportunities for financial aid, however, which may very well make up the gap between the prices of the differing kinds of institution, depending upon your exact situation. These opportunities for financial aid will vary from college to college, but may include scholarships, as well as need-based aid. This means that the so-called "sticker price" of private colleges and universities, while generally higher than the sticker price of public colleges and universities, is not actually the price you'll pay for attendance to private colleges and universities. In turn, this makes it critical to take into account the financial aid offered to you specifically when considering whether a given private college or university is a better option than a public college or university.

The Culture of Private Colleges and Universities

Private colleges and universities are also often more recognized for offering a particular type of institution, with a particular culture. This is significant because many public universities are much more focused upon providing an open and varied environment, which may appeal less than a highly focused environment created by a highly focused private college or university. For example, a public university or college will never be a women's college or university. On the other hand, women's colleges do still exist among private colleges and universities. If you are a female student and the idea of a women's college is appealing, then you would do well to look at private colleges and universities.

The Size of Private Colleges and Universities

Private colleges and universities are also generally of a smaller overall size than public colleges and universities. This is because in many cases, private colleges and universities are more restrictive and difficult to enter into, and the student body is smaller as a result. This is not a definitive fact, however, as there are many very large public colleges or universities, just as there are some very small public colleges and universities.

How do I choose?

Ultimately, your decision should, as mentioned previously, be based primarily on the individual facts and aspects of each college or university in which you are interested, as opposed to be based on the public or private status of any given college or university. But keep in mind that there are many great private colleges out there, and finding one suited for you is just a matter of looking.


Colleges Near You

Find a college that's right for you!
1Choose a state

2Choose a major
3Choose a degree type


Colleges you might like...

Wells College
Aurora, NY
  • Type Private
  • Setting Rural
  • Size 534 students
  • In-State $35,200
  • Out-of-State $35,200
  • Acceptance Moderately Difficult
View Full School Profile
Bryant University
Smithfield, RI
  • Type Private
  • Setting Suburban
  • Size 3,287 students
  • In-State $38,199
  • Out-of-State $38,199
  • Acceptance Moderately Difficult
View Full School Profile
  • Type Public
  • Setting Urban
  • Size 13,069 students
  • In-State $5,430
  • Out-of-State $14,550
  • Acceptance Moderately Difficult
View Full School Profile

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Colleges you might like...

Wells College
Aurora, NY
  • Type Private
  • Setting Rural
  • Size 534 students
  • In-State $35,200
  • Out-of-State $35,200
  • Acceptance Moderately Difficult
View Full School Profile
Bryant University
Smithfield, RI
  • Type Private
  • Setting Suburban
  • Size 3,287 students
  • In-State $38,199
  • Out-of-State $38,199
  • Acceptance Moderately Difficult
View Full School Profile
  • Type Public
  • Setting Urban
  • Size 13,069 students
  • In-State $5,430
  • Out-of-State $14,550
  • Acceptance Moderately Difficult
View Full School Profile

 

 

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