Choosing the right college for your higher education is a crucial decision and may involve the dilemma of choosing between public vs private colleges. Many students assume that private colleges are better than public colleges. But that may not necessarily be true.

Choosing a college that is good for you specifically is a very subjective decision. Again, the general assumption regarding the difference between a private and public university is in terms of finance and facilities. Since public colleges typically have less expensive fees, people tend to think they lack resources.

You can apply to a variety of public and private colleges and each will have its own pros and cons.

To make your college selection process less challenging, this blog compares and summarizes all the necessary information on the difference between public and private colleges. But, first of all, let’s understand what we mean by public and private colleges.

Public colleges are universities, community and technical colleges, and other institutions of higher education which are publicly funded by state or local governments. They may also be supported by private donations or grants. Public colleges provide a variety of educational programs and services, including academic and career counseling, vocational and technical training, and undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Differences between private and public colleges

Private colleges are higher education institutions that are privately owned and operated. These types of colleges offer a wide variety of degrees and programs, from Bachelor’s degrees to Doctoral programs. 

Private universities typically have smaller classes and more personalized instruction than public institutions, allowing students to build close relationships with faculty members. Private colleges also offer more flexible curriculums, as well as additional resources and activities such as research opportunities and internships. It is important to note that private colleges may be more expensive than public universities due to a lack of government funding. 

However, many private colleges offer generous scholarships and financial aid packages to help offset the cost. Additionally, private colleges often have more stringent admission requirements, so it is important for prospective students to review the application and selection criteria before applying. Ultimately, private colleges provide students with an intimate and enriching learning environment to help them succeed in their future endeavors.

There are quite a few major differences between public vs private colleges, many of which often go neglected. In fact, many students who wonder ‘what is the difference between a private and public university?’ should know that differences between public vs private colleges and public vs private universities are almost the same. 

Here is a summary of these differences before we go dive into further details. You can finally answer the question ‘are private colleges better?’ after evaluating these factors.

Point of Difference Public Colleges Private Colleges
Financed By The state government and the subsidies it offers finance public colleges Private businesses, investors, and tuition fees support private colleges
Student Fees They charge a small tuition fee because of government funding Higher tuition at private colleges is used to pay for the school’s various requirements
Scholarships Available Offered financial aid is less than that of private colleges In order to assist students in covering the high tuition costs, private colleges offer more lucrative scholarship opportunities
College Accreditation Government agencies on either the state or federal level accredit public colleges Private colleges must obtain national accreditation
College Admission Typically, public colleges have fewer strict admissions requirements and offer more seats Private colleges only accept a small number of students who meet strict requirements and undergo a thorough evaluation
Teachers’ Choice Professors are rated based on how well they are able to teach Before being chosen, professors are assessed based on their research activity
Majors offered There are more majors available for students to select from There are fewer majors from which to choose


As far as public vs private colleges is concerned in terms of funding, their means of acquiring funds are starkly different. As mentioned earlier, public colleges are reliant on the state government to set up their institutions and find them. 

These government funds comprise the tax money paid by the citizens.  As such, their operational policies can also be dictated by the government. Whereas private colleges are funded privately through organizations and donors. Private colleges get to make their own policies for implementation. 

Tuition Fee Structure

In terms of the tuition fee structure, public colleges have a much lower fee structure as compared to private colleges. This also often includes campus residence expenses. Doubtlessly, public colleges are much more affordable than private colleges. 

This means, if you’re aiming for a good education with minimal expenses, then public colleges are a good choice. Nonetheless, there is a small difference in fee structure within public colleges too. Basically, students living in the same region as the public save more on fee costs as compared to outer state students. 

Financial Aid

Public college students can get financial aid or scholarships through third-party funding or donor organizations. The reason private universities are able to award more scholarships and financial aid to students is due to their endowment fund. Often these scholarship and financial aid packages at private institutions include full tuition fees, rooming, and boarding. 

Therefore, students should not give up on applying to private colleges along with public colleges. Yes, the fee structure of private colleges is frequently skyrocketing, however, scholarship and financial aid packages can often do more than makeup for them. 

Research Opportunities

Government funding of public colleges allows them to provide quality research opportunities and facilities. These include well-equipped and well-designed labs as well as relevant lab resources. However, these research efforts by public colleges often go unmatched when it comes to private colleges. 

Although, that is not to say private colleges can never have such facilities. There may be exceptions out there. However, mostly, private colleges are not known to provide substantial research opportunities. 

Programs and Majors

Public colleges offer a wide variety of majors and programs catering to all fields. This is both a strategy for and a consequence of having such a large amount of students. In a public college, you can definitely find a major of desire among the many offered. However, private colleges are more specialized. Thereby, they only contain research opportunities and facilities relevant to the field concentration of that particular private university. 

Acceptance Rate

Acceptance rates in public colleges are higher than those in private colleges. This is because public colleges are larger with more slots to allow much more students to fill in. So, basically, if you have applied to both public and private colleges (which is ideally advised), there is a greater chance of hearing back positive feedback from a public university. 

However, this does not mean anyone can anyhow get into public colleges. Some public colleges are also known to have rigorous processes, and selective admissions strategies, and are therefore tough to get in. 

Campus Size

Public colleges are abundant in both infrastructural and class sizes as compared to private colleges. Due to their large infrastructural area, public colleges can accommodate a large number of students. Whereas, private colleges have a smaller geographical area with a smaller class size. As such, class spaces can either enhance the intimate learning experience of students in private college classrooms or make them feel cramped.


Under government funding and policies, public colleges have no affiliation with religion or any other population or group. Although, private colleges are known to have religious or gender affiliations. These affiliations create a kind of bias whereby they only support, protect, and facilitate the dominant group which can be religion, gender, etc. 

It may sound like a dilemma, but with careful planning, you can decide which college – private or public meets your needs. Both Private and Public colleges offer unique characteristics and the only way you can find the most suitable college for yourself is through sufficient planning.

Here’s how:

  • List down your priorities, such as finances, scholarships, majors and programs., etc.
  • Evaluate various public and private colleges before choosing either one of the two options. 
  • Moreover, send out your application to any and every college that is relevant to your field to increase your chances of acceptance.

Here are a few factors you can consider before choosing a college for yourself:

  • The learning environment of the college
  • The campus life
  • Class size
  • Campus diversity
  • Extracurriculars, etc. 

It is also recommended to visit the college and tour it to understand it better. The best college for you is the one you can afford, the one which offers your dream program, and one which has all the basic facilities for all students. 

What to do after you have chosen between private and public college

The next steps are all too simple. Once you’ve heard the feedback from a couple of colleges, narrow down the one you actually want to go to. Or if you’re at the first stage and simply exploring colleges, begin drafting applications as soon as you shortlist a few. Again, base your decision between public vs private colleges on a number of factors including the faculty diversity, extracurriculars offered, research opportunities, and of course, (but not only) finances. 

Finally, once you’re set on college, be it public or private, explore it further. Finalize the application and submit any other documents asked of you. Trust in yourself and in your decision and you will be good to go!

We hope this blog helped you find the answers you were looking for. Feel free to browse through our site for any information you need about any college-related topic.