Public vs. Private Part 2

Published Tuesday, May 3, 2011 by Tarang

Before reading this article, be sure to check out Part 1 for a basic understanding:

Last time, I discussed mainly cost and class size. It was established that private schools are much more expensive than public schools, often double the cost. However, private schools offer more scholarships, so you should not exclude them from your college search without researching financial aid options. It was also found that private schools have smaller classes and more “hand-holding” of the student in general. On the other hand, many public schools offer this as well; they just have larger student bodies.

Nothing could conclusively be established regarding the quality of the educational experience. Although public schools have larger class sizes and perhaps less personal attention, students do not find this a drawback. Many of my fellow students at UC Berkeley enjoyed meeting people from different walks of life. They also did not find the personal attention issue to be a drawback. There are enough office hours to meet deans and professors if you wish, and research and internship opportunities at UC Berkeley were endless. One major drawback that students did complain about was the level competition with larger class sizes; however, this did not deter most students from achieving their goals.

While not all public (or private) schools can offer the same quality of education as the next school, each school has its own benefits. Richard Moll wrote a book called Public Ivies: A Guide to America’s best public undergraduate colleges and universities and listed public universities that he felt competed with the Ivy League schools. His criteria included academic rigor and top-notch faculty as well as appearance and tradition. His original list included in no particular order:

  1. College of William & Mary
  2. Miami University
  3. University of California (all campuses as of 1985)
  4. University of Michigan (Ann Arbor)
  5. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  6. University of Texas at Austin
  7. University of Vermont (Burlington)
  8. University of Virginia (Charlottesville)

He also included some “runner-ups”

  1. University of Colorado at Boulder
  2. Georgia Institute of Technology
  3. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  4. New College of Florida
  5. Pennsylvania State University at University Park
  6. University of Pittsburgh
  7. State University of New York at Binghamton
  8. University of Washington at Seattle
  9. University of Wisconsin-Madison

His list was expanded more recently in 2001 in The Public Ivies: America’s Flagship Public Universities by Howard and Matthew Greene. The full list can be found here: as well as a background on Moll’s list. These schools are academically and athletically competitive, and they boast top rankings in graduate schools. Luckily, the new list by Greene contains 30 schools rather than just the original 16. This means that many more states boast of top public schools providing affordable education.

What does this mean for the universities that are not on the prestigious list of 30. Well, as stated last time many schools still provide good and comprehensive degree programs. In the NYT article cited in the previous post, the student from Indiana State University enjoyed her college experience. Also, the CSU system in California boasts of great Master’s programs as well as career opportunities.

The Final Consensus: Do what is best for you and weigh your options. Research shows that getting a college degree is the most important factor for success, not where you go to college.

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