Public vs Private Universities

What is the different between public and private universities?

Is it worth spending lot of money to study in Private universities?

Does higher tuition fees equate to better quality of education and high salary? Lets find out in this article.

 Public Universities

  • State University System tag attached to it
  • Funded from State Tax payers (majority), tuition fee, research grants, etc.
  • Gets subsidies from state, so tuition fees can be kept low
  • Each state  in United states have a university with its name (ex University of Texas)
  • University of Georgia is the first public university in USA (Jan 27, 1785)
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was founded 4 yeares later
  • State resident will pay lower fees (since their parent’s tax money is used to fund college)
  • Out of State students (domestic and international) pay higher fees
  • Number of students per class will be higher.

Private Universities

  • Funded by student tuition, investment income, research contracts, and private donations.
  • Tuition fees will be higher compared to public universities
  • Smaller class sizes (better interaction with professors)
  • Easy to network with past students in good positions and highly successful in society.
  • With such contacts, easier to get job in higher places.

There are both pros and cons with public and private universities. All Ivy league schools are private and they are considered prestigious schools. There are many good public universities  (University of California, UNC, College of William and Mary, University of Virginia, ..)

Most of you would much interested to know about difference in tuition fees between public and private universities. Checkout In-State vs Out of State tuition fee blog post for more details.

International Students

Not everyone can afford to study in Private universities. Students applying from countries like India, will get much better education compared to schools in India (expect IIT, IIM) even in public universities. Even, if you attend private universities, its in your hands to make use of the opportunities presented to you.

When in high school, everyone have the equal opportunity to get good score and attend  top university, but outcome of your effort determines where you end up getting admission.

Everyone has same opportunity and resource available to get high score in GRE, TOEFL, GMAT, etc. But, you don’t come across frequently who have scored 1600.

You can still attend unknown public universities and get to higher places in your life, but it takes more effort, determination to reach higher goals in life.

Friends you get to meet ( and network) when attending prestigious Private universities will be will be CEO, CFO of major companies. Friends you get to meet in regular public schools will be those who are working (or going to work)  for the companies (from private schools). This analogy might not be always correct, but most of the time it will hold true.

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  1. hello HSB
    i contacted some MIT pro. they tell me our department are fully funded and all students got TA/RA.

  2. I have to disagree with this post, (primarily based on my experience).

    1. Private Universities dont necessarily give out assistantships and scholarships to students. Because they are funded through grants and endowments, the state of economy plays a big role in the dispensal of these. Also ivy league private universities love to have International students because it improves their rankings based on diversity. And the more number of International students, the less likely you are to get funding. Also, the funding heavily depends on which branch you choose.

    But a public Ivy almost always will give out assistantships atleast by second semester and most of the students will get instate tuition.

    2. The lesser number of students and more interaction with the prof is also a myth in Private Universities. Again, since the University has to generate income, the professors will be involved in more research projects and most of the Ivy League students hardly get to interact with their profs outside classrooms and parties.

    3. Yes, private universities offer a good alum network and a good brand name and that is probably the vital positive I would see in a Private Ivy league. But honestly, a good public ivy like UTA , Cal Berkeley, Michigan etc is as good as an expensive private Ivy.

    1. FYI – There is no public and private Ivy League schools. There is only one Ivy League. So, for comparison it will be Ivy League, Private and Public schools. It happens all Ivy League schools are Private.
      Public schools give out funding – Agreed. Most of the students get funding – Disagree. Only 30% of International students get funded.

      1. Thank you for the information. But do also check out this
        Its an age old debate I guess- Public v/s private Ivies.

        All Ivy schools are not private. Its just that Public Ivies are not usually bumped up in US news and other rankings (Though a lot of them do gain positions). I think its just a perspective difference.

        And reg the funding ,I prefaced it saying its my experience, which primarily holds true for the non engineering backgrounds. So I cant comment on what happens in other disciplines. But atleast by second year in these disciplines, most of the students get some sort of funding- be it Tuition waiver, in state tuition or some sort of assistantship in Humanities, Public health, Policy, Arts, Literature disciplines. I concede it might be due to the less influx of International students in these disciplines.

        Essentially, I maybe heavily biased with mine and other colleagues experiences in Ivy league schools; so take it with a pinch of salt. But I do think a good public school can compete with any private 'ivy' in terms of education and as a launching pad and minus the heavy debt you will incur.

  3. thanks for your advices. could you please explain the difference between public universities and private universities in tuition waivers and how much they would make tuitions less in each one.

  4. Hello HSB,

    My name is Vibhor Meshram. I'm currently pursuing B.Tech in CSE from NIT, Nagpur & I'm in 3rd semester. I have taken sample tests from Barrons and other resources. I'm finding GRE fairly easy. I have scored around 1400 – 1450 (rough evaluation provided in the book) each time. So my query is : "Whether the difficulty of actual GRE is same as in Barrons?"

    I also wanted to know

    1) if I can take GRE in my second year itself (since, I have read that GRE scores are valid for 5 years) & apply after graduation. Do they prefer new GRE scores over new ones?

    2) does the "NIT" tag matters during admission process?

    3) do my AIRs(AIEEE – 3071 & IIT-JEE – 6073) matter during admissions?

    4) I'm strongly feel that I should do PhD after my B.Tech, but I'm not having any exposure to research. Can you post something on research papers, publishing them, etc. This will be of great help to me.


  5. Very good post. I think provate universities do provide funding to international students in some form such aas assistantships etc. Its always wise to pick a good private university (Ivy league schools) on a good public university( e .g University of California Berkley) because as you mentioned in your post, private schools have a great alumni network and their brand help to land a job pretty easily. But you must have your own or university funding to do so. If not, there is no better option than a good public university. I personally would prefer a public university cause you get to meet people from all walks and you get a better understanding of the American culture. This Ron from the University of Wisconsin

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