Public Universities vs Private Universities. Who Wins?

By | June 22, 2017

essay sample on public vs private universities

There is a set of differences concerning attendance of a public university compared to a private one, which are considered when making a decision about a higher education institution. Generally, these differences are categorized into four issues, such as cost, size, academics, and the public image. In terms of cost, public institutions are state funded, which underpins their financial advantage over private institutions for students. High tuition fees of private universities are not affordable for low-income students. Even if a student prefers attending other state’s university system, tuition fees of public universities are still much lower than those of private universities are. To compensate this disparity, private institutions offer financial aid initiatives and scholarships to the gifted or those students who are expected to diversify the student population (Wolf 51). Although private university endowments are unable to satisfy the needs of all students, they significantly contribute to increasing the institutional attractiveness.

While the ultimate reliance on state funding is a benefit, one the hand, for public universities, it is also a weakness, on the other hand. In times of economic decay, public institutions frequently experience budget cuts ascribed by their state legislature. The reduction in state budgeting produces negative effects on various aspects of public university functioning, including academics, teacher staff shortages, accommodation, and extracurricular activities. Private universities are vulnerable to economic downturns as well; however, their endowments typically manage to cover such budget gaps (McPherson, Schapiro, and Winston 20). Greater funds underlie the general advantage of private institutions over public ones in terms of course offerings, dorm rooms, class sizes, food choice, and celebrations and outdoor activities.

Low tuition fees of public universities enforce these institutions to attract and admit greater amounts of students to ensure organizational profitability. Large student volumes may cause shortages in accommodation capabilities of public universities while increasing class sizes. State-determined budget limits public universities in continuingly expanding the course scope and extracurricular activities, inviting famous lecturers, or organizing and holding expansive events (Clotfelter 160). High tuition fees allow private universities to establish and maintain substantial funds for steadily enriching their academic and social value. Rigorous academic programs offer students a variety of learning opportunities and activities designated to streamlining individual content comprehension and application. Private universities collaborate with various businesses and industries to offer practical experiences for their students, thus, enhancing their competence in applying theoretical knowledge.

Apart from a diversified set of courses, greater budgets of private universities allow practicing a more sophisticated student admission and teacher recruitment policies, which results in smaller classes and dedicated highly qualified staff. The size of classes plays a vital role in the personalized attention from professors and smaller group collaboration practices. Thus, smaller class sizes in private universities facilitate closer relationships between students and teachers and among peers, which streamlines cooperation and academic progress. The final point concerning differences between public and private universities refers to the public image. The well-known Ivy League is a network of highly prestigious private universities that are a desirable destination for most ambitious student. However, the system of public universities has adopted a term “Public Ivy” to refer to a public institution offering education of the Ivy League quality, yet at a considerably discounted price (Wolf 52). The number of public universities granted with the name “Public Ivy” is much larger than the amount of Ivy League institutions, which allows the public university system with a competitive advantage in the market of higher education. Given evidence cited above, both types of universities have their benefits and shortages, which require a careful consideration when making a choice.

Works Cited

Clotfelter, Charles T. Big-Time Sports in American Universities. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

McPherson, Michael S., Schapiro, Morton Owen, and Winston, Gordon C. Paying the Piper: Productivity, Incentives, and Financing in U. S. Higher Education. University of Michigan Press, 1993.

Wolf, Karen. CliffsNotes Roadmap to College: Navigating Your Way to College Admission Success. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009.

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