What are Public Colleges and Universities?

Public Colleges and Universities continue to attract a large number of student population in the United States. Discover the benefits, courses, drawbacks, and other factors of Public Colleges.

Updated by Ankita Tiwari on 15th February 2020

What are Public Colleges and Universities?

Public Colleges are those colleges and universities which are primarily funded by the state. Though in many cases, the public taxpayers do not provide enough funding thus leading to certain drawbacks associated with these schools. 

These are institutions maintained by public funds and organizations. They purely work for public growth and improvisation, with lower education costs and other facilities. 

Public Colleges are popular for the courses they offer, for example, University Of California - Los Angeles offers more than 3,000 courses.

 Public Colleges and Universities

source - pexels.com

Public Colleges and Universities in the US 2019

Looking forward to joining a public college. Here are the top 10 Public Universities and Colleges 2019 to choose from. 

Top 10 Public Colleges/University
Rank University/College Name
1 University of California - Berkeley
2 University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
3 Georgia Institute of Technology
4 Pennsylvania State University
5 University of Virginia
6 University of Ohio
7 College of William and Mary
8 University of California - Los Angeles
9 University of North Carolina -  Chapel Hill
10 University of Florida

Features of Public Colleges and Universities 

Public Colleges do not require any tuition fees to be paid as they receive funds from the state. Some of the features of public colleges are given.

  • Size - The class size is much larger to that of private institutions. The public universities usually have a large infrastructure as compared to that of private colleges.

  • Division 1 Athletics - All the athlete courses offered in public colleges fall under division 1 athletics.

  • Low Cost - Since they receive direct funding from the state, the students are not required to pay tuition fees. Other academic expenses such as books or hostel fee are taken care of.

  • Commuter and part-time students - Public Universities were established keeping in mind the commute issues faced by the state students. A majority of the students belong to the state itself. 

What are Private Colleges?

Unlike Public colleges, private colleges do not receive any funding from the state. These colleges take tuition fees directly from the students thus making it a less affordable option.

Private and Public Colleges differ in factors such as classroom size, tuition fees, financial aid, academic outcomes, and more. 

Benefits of Public Colleges and Universities

Even though students prefer to choose Private Colleges, however, Public Colleges are the best when it comes to factors such as affordability and lower expenses.

Some of the benefits of going to a Public College are listed.

  • Public Universities/Colleges costs are lower, including tuition fee and other academic fees.

  • Students can enjoy a diverse population of students with various talents.

  • The institutions offer various types of financial aid and scholarships. [Also read: Scholarships for you

  • They offer many program courses and sometimes, they are rare to find elsewhere.

  • You will get a chance to experience a large infrastructure.

  • Public institutions not only provide education, but they also focus on sports and co-circular activities. 

Public College Benefits

source - pexels.com

Drawbacks of Public Colleges

Public Colleges do have certain benefits but it is not without downsides. Some of the drawbacks of these colleges are given. 

  • Low Graduation Rate - Due to lack of quality education in a few public colleges, the graduation rate and quality of the academic outcome is going down.


 [Also read: What is graduation rate?


  • Low-Quality education - Only the best public colleges offer good faculty and advanced education.

  • Higher student/faculty ratio - Due to lesser fees and financial aid, a lot of students who otherwise can’t afford the skyrocketing fees of private colleges choose public colleges, but the faculty or the teaching staff are scarce. 

    Public Colleges

source - third.org 

Courses offered by Public Institutions

Public Colleges offers traditional programs as well as online programs in almost all streams. Undergraduate, Graduate and Postgraduate courses will be found in any Public College/University. 

The following tables will guide you more on the degree levels and certificate courses.

Courses offered by Public Colleges
Degree Levels Certificate Programs
Associate  Undergraduate Certificate
Bachelor  Graduate Certificate
Master  Post Baccalaureate Certificate
Doctorate  Post-Master Certificate


The state’s best public universities are the only ones which offer education at par with their private counterparts. For in-state students who are not eligible for financial aid, public universities might be the most affordable option.

Around 50% of students join public colleges and reflect a great learning experience.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • 1.What is considered a Public College?

    A Public College/University primarily receives funds from the state. In comparison with private colleges, public colleges have larger class sizes.

  • 2.What is the difference between Public University and State University?

    All state universities are public universities but all public universities might not be state universities. The biggest difference is that state universities belong to a system of schools and has numerous campuses.

  • 3.What is the best public college? 

    The University of California-Berkeley is considered as the best public college in the US.

  • 4.What are the 8 public Ivy League Schools?

    Some Public Ivy League schools are mentioned here. College of William & Mary (Williamsburg, Virginia) Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) University of California (nine campuses as of 1985) University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill The University of Texas at Austin University of Vermont (Burlington)

  • 5.Are public schools better than private schools?

    Nowadays, students prefer to choose private schools over public schools. However, public schools are the best when it comes to affordability as no tuition fee is required. 

  • 6.Are public universities free?

    Public universities are funded by the state and it is the government who pays the tuition fees and other education expenses of the students.

  • 7.Do private schools provide a better education?

    Private schools have a higher graduation rate and better academic outcomes as compared to public schools.