You probably know that there are many colleges and universities to choose from, but before you make your choice you should also know that there are different categories of schools offering different kinds of programs and areas of emphasis.
Public vs. Private Colleges and Universities
The first major difference to understand is between private and public colleges. All states have public colleges and universities that receive most of their funding from the state and federal governments. Their operating costs are also supported through the taxes paid by residents of those states. This means that if you attend a public college or university in the state in which you and your parents live, you will pay a lower, “in-state” level of tuition. You can also choose to attend a public college or university in a state where you and your parents don’t live, but as a non-resident you will pay a higher, “out of state” tuition. It is always worthwhile to check how long you or your parents need to live in the state in order to qualify for “in-state” tuition; sometimes you can become a resident after your first year of studies, and qualify for the lower tuition for subsequent years.
Unlike public colleges and universities, private schools receive only a small amount of their budgets from state and federal funds and taxes. Therefore their tuition costs are usually much higher, though they often don’t charge different rates for local and out of state students. While tuition at private colleges can be significantly more expensive than at state schools, they often have greater financial resources and can offer grants and scholarships to offset the costs of tuition.
Another important difference between private and public schools is the average size of the student body and the kind of experience that these schools offer. Public colleges and universities are usually much larger, with more students and as a result they often have faculty to student ratios that are higher than at private colleges. Undergraduate classes at private colleges, unlike many public schools, are more often taught by full faculty members, rather than teaching or graduate assistants. Some students also feel that they get more individual attention at private colleges, though others enjoy the usually greater diversity of students that can be found at public colleges.
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