Public vs. Private

Published Monday, May 2, 2011 by Tarang

The temperature is rising all around the nation as summer approaches, but the weather is not the only thing bringing the heat. Parents and high school students are getting ready diligently for their college road trips as they fill their Suburbans with all the necessities. Summer is a popular time to explore colleges, but summer also brings the onset of higher gas prices. Travel can be expensive, and now it is time to choose which school is worth that $4.21 per gallon of gas and which one is not. One of the major considerations to take into account is public vs private. Both have their own benefits and drawbacks; hopefully, today I can highlight some of the differences and help you decide.

Sarah Lawrence College

The first major drawback that comes to mind for private schools is their total cost. Sarah Lawrence College, a private school in New York, brought in a bank-breaking charge of $55, 788 per year in the year 2009. This cost includes tuition, room, board, and fees. Don’t forget that students will have a life outside of school as well, meaning that they will want to go out with friends or even indulge themselves in shopping. All in all the cost is definitely quite high. Keep in mind that Sarah Lawrence College is one of the most expensive colleges in the country, and many private schools cost under $55,000 per year. However, public schools usually cost about one half compared to most private schools. New York’s public school system, SUNY, generally costs $28, 460 per year. Sadly, even public school costs are rising due to budget cuts.

Also, public schools charge as much as private schools for out of state students sometimes. For example, UC Berkeley (public institution) only costs an estimated $31, 566 for in-state students, but $54, 444 for out of state students. Students do tend to reduce costs when they live off-campus (not in dorms) by finding cheaper rent, getting more roommates, and cooking rather than paying for meal plans. Students who lived off campus at UC Berkeley saved over $4,000 per year.

Scholarships assist many students with their costs, and one of the benefits of private schools is that they have more aid. Scholarship assistance at private schools has grown more than the cost of attendance, which means that more kids are getting aid. There are many more programs for students coming in with different income backgrounds, including upper middle class. That being said, even with scholarship help, the cost of attending a private institution is very high.

Private schools offer smaller class sizes in general. Muhlenberg College offers classes with only 10 people resulting in more face time between students and professors. Students at private schools also often get more face time with counselors and deans. This is not true across the board, though. Many private schools still have large lecture classes, and many public schools have some smaller classes. Class sizes are often determined by many factors such as difficulty level and prerequisites. In general, though, private schools have a smaller student body allowing for more guidance and one-on-one attention. The University of Redlands in Southern California only has around 2, 500 undergraduates, which can really help students develop stronger bonds with faculty and staff. Also, private schools such as the Ivy Leagues can help students work in influential places later in life. Not all private schools are taught with the same quality; though price really does determine quality in many cases. Of course, California is very lucky to have the best public institutions, the University of California system.

Overall, picking the college is really up to which place works best for the student and the family. People from private schools are not necessarily more successful in life. Steven Spielberg went to CSU Long Beach. Private schools also offer many types of assistance, so do not be afraid to explore an option which might seem too expensive at first.


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