Private vs. Public Colleges: What's the Difference?

Private vs. Public Colleges: What's the Difference?

Uploaded on
Feb 3, 2023
Last updated on
Feb 9, 2023
Uploaded on
Feb 3, 2023
Last updated on
Feb 9, 2023
Private vs. Public Colleges: What's the Difference?
Choose your fit and build your future!

You've finally decided to try further education abroad and are deciding on a college which is probably a little stressful as it there’s a lot to research. Despite all the challenges, multiple students worldwide are preparing to submit college applications, and many are probably curious about the difference between public and private universities. Well, you’re in luck, as we’ve curated this blog just for you. Each sort of institution offers a set of universal characteristics and qualities that can better fit your preferred learning style and type of college experience. You’ll finally get your awaited answer on which type of university is better for you, public VS private.

What is a Public University?

Public universities are institutions of higher learning that get most of their funding from the state government. In contrast, public universities tend to be large and get government funding with thousands of students and expansive campuses, many public colleges. Due to in-state tuition, many public institutions will have a sizable local student body. Fewer spaces are available for out-of-state or international students because certain public universities are even obligated to admit a particular proportion of students from their state to maintain funding. Although public institutions generally have more students, this can make them competitive. 

Top 5 Public universities in USA

  • University of California, Los Angles
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Washington
  • University of Oxford
  • Technical University of Munich

What is a Private University?

Private colleges may be for-profit or non-profit institutions. While non-profit private colleges prioritise giving students a decent education, for-profit colleges are operated like businesses and are primarily concerned with making a profit. As a result, for-profit universities have a worse reputation than non-profit institutions. Moreover, private institutions tend to be smaller due to more selective financing sources, frequently resulting in fewer students and smaller class numbers. They draw students from and around the nation since they charge in-state tuition. Due to fewer students vying for the same possibilities, smaller private universities may offer more options for students wishing to participate in sports or the arts. 

Top 5 Private universities in USA

  • Harvard University
  • Princeton University
  • Emory University 
  • Stanford University 
  • Northwestern University 

Public VS Private Universities: Differences

Now, let's look at the key differences between private and public universities:

Funding Sources

The main difference between a private and public institution is where it gathers its funds. Usually, public universities get funding from the state government, whereas private universities get funding from private sources, investors, and student tuition fees. 

Tuition Fee and Cost

There are differences between Public vs private universities in terms of tuition expenses and the price of their academic programmes. Where public institutions get funded by the government and offer more affordable courses with lower tuition, their overall cost is lower than those of studying at private universities. On the other hand, a private institution typically charges comparatively greater tuition for its programmes, making it costly for students to attend. 


The distinction relates to the prior one on the comparison of tuition costs between Public vs private universities. Financial aid and government scholarship programmes public universities offer many since they provide affordable courses and programmes. In contrast, private universities provide more financial aid and scholarship programmes than public universities to assist students in covering the higher tuition costs.


Public universities can be associated at the regional level and are typically accredited by the state or federal governments. Private universities must get national government accreditation, i.e., from the department under the government at the national level or university commission, as the right to award degrees and educate students may be revoked in the absence of this accreditation. Therefore, it is crucial to verify if the university you have chosen has the required accreditation from the government or not while deciding between Public vs private universities.

Major Available 

This is yet another important distinction between Public vs private universities. Public universities offer various majors and degrees for their study programmes, whereas private universities may be specialised educational institutions offering specialised study or a limited range of majors. If you want some help in planning you study routine here are some great study-planning apps that can prove to be helpful.


Many seats are available in public universities, and the selection and eligibility requirements are flexible. Pirate universities, on the other hand, are discovered to be stricter regarding qualifying requirements and the selection procedure, as well as more restricted in terms of seat availability. This is a key distinguishing feature between Public vs private universities in their entrance standards.

Public VS Private Universities: Comparison 

Education Costs 

It's a known fact that public universities will likely cost less; it's the same throughout the world. Less tuition fee is charged at public universities, but because of the high level of competitiveness, admission requirements might be challenging. Private universities, on the other hand, have greater tuition fees but more lenient admission standards. Even if governments and bureaucratic initiatives support government- schools, they occasionally charge hefty prices. In contrast, other private schools charge a reasonable fee keeping in mind the student's calibre and the likelihood of success. If money isn't the issue, you are open to a wide range of colleges to choose from, whether public or private universities. 

Programs offering

Private universities, especially liberal arts colleges, have comparatively fewer academic majors than public colleges in areas of study. However, this isn't always a terrible thing. Private universities that offer a focused study in their area of interest can be advantageous for students who already know what they want to study. Since public institutions often enrol a larger number of students, they can offer more degree options. For instance, Purdue University in Indiana offers more than 200 majors in almost every degree category you can imagine. Students who are unsure about attending university or choosing a major may prefer a public university with a broader range of major and minor subjects to choose from. 

Research opportunities

Government funding of public universities also allows them to offer a wide range of labs and research facilities, making it easier for students to get materials for all the required research. One good example is the University of California, Los Angeles, which is home to hundreds of research labs and institutes. The most opportunities are found at public universities for students who are dedicated to their craft and using the research tools for academic research. On the contrary, many private institutions have fewer resources for students and less space for research. But there are some exceptions, like Cornell University and John Hopkins University, which have an annual budget of billions of dollars. There are a lot of private research universities, but some smaller ones cannot match the research effort. 

Campus size and culture

Some people thrive in an energetic environment, while others prefer a quiet, comfortable setting that isn't overwhelming, so campus size can be a crucial factor in selecting the right college. Many public institutions have larger campuses in order to accommodate a larger student body. Private universities take pride in their uniqueness and still maintain a more intimate, smaller campus. It all depends on the student's preferences and the setting they feel to be supportive of learning and letting them play to their strengths. 

Scholastic and Acceptance Rate

The majority of private institutions, especially Ivy League universities and colleges in the USA, like Columbia, Brown, Harvard, etc., have strict admission and academic requirements. A student must fulfil all qualifications before applying, and after being admitted, they must maintain their high academic standards. So in comparison, public universities have fewer requirements and more lenient entrance standards. 
What are the Ivy League schools, you ask? You’ll get a clear idea of what an Ivy League school is and how to apply for them.

Financial Aid

Federal financial aid is available to students attending both public and private universities. However, because of their substantial endowment assets, private universities typically have more money that is available to offer as grants and scholarships and usually provide larger tuition discounts, unlike public universities. The NACUBO reports that private universities offered undergraduate students an average tuition discount of 48% for the 2020-21 academic year. So, in conclusion, while tuition discounts and financial aid programmes can make a private institution more inexpensive than public ones, private colleges are comparatively more expensive than public colleges.

Public VS Private University: Which one is better? 

Now to answer the main question, Public VS Private University: Which one is better? Well, to tell the truth, they both have their advantages. However, the main difference between the two types of universities lies in their design and purpose. Public universities are designed to be accessible to everyone, while private universities are designed to cater to only specific groups of people. Public, as well as private universities provide students with a diverse academic experience.

Now that we know all there is to know about which type of educational institution is better, Public vs Private, all you have to do is check various colleges, consider all the above differences and compare your choices. After all, you know what best fits your need. We wish you the best of luck!
If you’re still not sure if you want to study right after you graduate high school, don’t worry you’re allowed to take a gap year; here are some of the benefits of a Gap year for college admission and beyond.