Differences Between Private and Public Colleges

Are you on the verge of choosing a college and not sure whether to go for a public college or a private one. In this article we detail on private vs. public college with key differences.

Updated by TCM Staff on 20th October 2020

If you are reading this blog, then you are mostly on the verge of choosing a college and not sure whether to go for a public college or a private one. A majority of students face this problem, so don’t worry.

Private colleges are the ones which does not fall under the ownership of the government and whose main focus is to make profits. Public Universities, on the other hand, are the ones that come under government ownership and their focus is not to make profits.

In this education system, the primary source of disbursing degrees to college hopefuls are the Public and Private Universities.

One can relate to the above image. Post-secondary education has become essential to compete for a job. But there is still a debate which college is better- Public or Private.  

There Are no specific answers to this question. Both have their pros and cons. It depends on what a person is looking for in a college.  

We’ve outlined some of the common factors to consider that might help in determining the right type of school for you. So let’s start with some simple terms.

Table of contents

Private College- The Overview

A private college is an independent school that is owned by individual personalities, has its own set rules and regulations (even separate examination rules), and is privately funded. 

Private colleges rely on tuition, fees, and gifts to raise money. The government does not operate these colleges. Private College Subclassification is as follows.

1. Private Not-For-Profit Colleges

  • A Private Not-For-Profit college is an institution that is run or owned by a private sector, but they don’t strive to make money. 

  • Endowments and donations fund them. 

  • The main focus of these colleges is to help students complete their college degrees as a launchpad for career success. 

  • Some examples of Not-for-profit colleges are listed below: 

2. Private For-Profit Colleges 

  • For-Profit College is primarily a business. The college is in the business of providing a service, which in this case is the education for college students.   

  • These colleges are launched and managed by owners and shareholders who are looking to make a profit from their business venture. 

  • Some examples of for-profit colleges are listed below: 

Public Universities- The Overview

A public college is a college that is publicly owned or receives significant federal funding through a national or subnational government, as opposed to a private university.

Though the education received at public schools is not less than what is provided by a private school, the recognition is not always there. It tends to be a little easier to gain acceptance at a public university, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable an education.   

Public institutions are less costly compared to private colleges, and the government-appointed board members or trustees handle it.

Since students at public universities are more likely to live off-campus, there is the possibility of having fewer restrictions at those locations.

What is the difference- Public Vs. Private colleges?

Are you wondering what might be the difference between private and public colleges? Below listed are the contrasts between the two kinds of colleges in every aspect possible. 

1. Tuition Rates  

  • It is probably the most significant difference between private and public colleges. The government generally funds public colleges. The government usually pays the cost of operating in public colleges.

  • Therefore, Tuition fees are relatively less as compared to Private colleges. 


2. Authority  

  • Public colleges are even looked after by government-appointed board members or trustees.   

  • Whereas, private colleges have to look after their costs and spending as they are set up by individual businessmen or other people. They rely heavily on tuition fees and private contributions, so their prices are higher. 

3. Class Sizes   

  • In the case of Public college, the class size will be larger (sometimes in hundreds). A student will find it difficult to get any one-on-one time with their professors. 

  • However, in Private college, class sizes will be much smaller. There will be more opportunities to become engaged in in-depth discussions with their professors, and they will get to know most of their fellow students exceptionally well.


4. Demographics

  • Public colleges fill with in-state residents or state students. Private colleges, on the other hand, attract students from across the country and around the world. 

  • If a geographically diverse student body interests you, then you can prefer attending a private college.

5. Degrees offered 

  • Students who want a wide choice of majors can find them at public universities. In a single large public university, undergraduates enroll in academic programs ranging from traditional liberal arts to highly specialized technical fields. 

  • Private colleges offer a smaller range of majors but often have a particular academic focus. Some private colleges may emphasize the liberal arts or the fine arts, for instance, while others focus on engineering and computer science.

6. Quality of Education/Value 

  • Generally speaking, public schools can offer more for your money. Though the education received is not less than a private college, the recognition is not always there. Remember, lower tuition does not indicate a lower quality education. 

  • Private colleges have some of the best faculties coming and teaching. That is why people have names like Yale, Harvard, Stanford, etc. stuck in their minds. The public universities fall a little short in terms of reputation compared to private colleges. 


7. Work Availability 

  • The amount of work availability is higher in public colleges than in private colleges. The university itself is likely to have more jobs for students, as well as work-study programs to assist payment of tuition.  

  • In the case of Private Colleges, work-study is likely available. The job selection is slim at private colleges. 


8. Extra-Curricular Activities 

  • Public colleges have a club or committee for every activity. If you think of it, if there’s not, then you can always demand one. There’s something for everybody between Greek life, sports, student government, music groups: The list goes on. 

  • While in Private colleges also there are plenty of clubs involved as they like their students associated with extra-curricular, but there might be smaller groups than the public colleges.

Top 10 Private Colleges

Here is a list of the top 10 private colleges.

Name of the College

Acceptance Rate

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Stanford University


Yale University


Harvard University


Princeton University


Duke University


Brown University


Columbia University


University of Pennsylvania


Rice University


Top 10 Public Colleges

Here is a list of the top 10 public colleges.

Name of the College

Acceptance Rate

University of Michigan – Ann Arbor


University of California – Los Angeles


University of Virginia


United States Military Academy


University of Georgia


University of California – Berkeley


The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


The University of Texas- Austin


College of William and Mary


Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University



Well, I hope this tells you a lot about private and public colleges. The private colleges are the ones which are mainly for individual needs and is not for a charitable sake. Public colleges open to benefit society as a whole.  

The points mentioned below might be useful to conclude and also to decide your choice in one glance.

Public Colleges

  • Comparatively easy and more affordable.

  • Class strength is more significant than private colleges.

  • Lack of friendly relationships with professors.

  • Lesser geographically diverse.

  • More degree programs, extracurricular activities, and other facilities.

  • Excellent and colorful campus environment.

Private Colleges

  • Comparatively these colleges are more expensive

  • The class size or strength is smaller.

  • Excellent communication and relationships with professors.

  • More geographically diverse.

  • The availability of degree programs and activities are less.

  • Students are more likely to graduate on time.

It’s wise to determine your main priorities and examines all schools you’re interested in, public and private, to see which best match what you’re looking for in your college experience.  

Your best bet is to consider both options and look into more specific factors, rather than ruling out one type of school over the other.  

Frequently Asked Questions

  • 1.What is Public College?

    Public institutions are colleges that operate under the ultimate control of a state or local government. Public colleges are funded by the government authorities. 

  • 2.What is Private College?

    Private colleges and universities are controlled by a board of trustees and do not receive direct funding from the state. However, students attending the institution may pay for it with public financial aid. Private colleges usually charge 2 to 4 times the tuition of public institutions. 

  • 3.Difference between public and private colleges?

    The major difference between public universities and private colleges lies in how they are funded. This affects students because funding is tied to tuition prices.

  • 4.What are the advantages of Public Colleges?

    The Benefits of Public and State Universities Lower Tuition Costs. Public universities collect a large portion of their operating funds from Federal and local State governments. Prosperous and World-renowned Facilities and Faculties. Diverse Student Body. Competitive Atmosphere.

  • 5.What are the advantages of Private Colleges?

    Advantages of Private Colleges are- Committed professors. Professors have more time to spend with their students to ensure they achieve their academic goals. Merit scholarships and other financial incentives.

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