private public colleges

Private and Public Colleges: How to Decide What’s Best for You

In nearly every country, private and public colleges are different. In the United States, deciding what’s best requires a dynamic look at issues of cost, prestige, and overall fit.

  1. Cost

On average, private colleges are more expensive than public ones. However, averages can be deceptive.

  Average Price Information
  Tuition and Fees* Debt per Borrower**
Public School $23,893 $26,872
Private School $32,405 $31,710

*2015-16 data from CollegeBoard. Public school statistics for out-of-state students.

**2016 data from

Private schools charge nearly $10,000 more per year. However, average debt per borrower is only about $5,000 more. In part, this is due to the misleading nature of sticker prices– scholarships and grants often make posted tuition rates irrelevant.

Prices also greatly depend on the individual school. Berea College in Kentucky, for example, is a private school that is completely tuition-free!

Before deciding that a private school is too expensive for you, research its actual price and investigate potential scholarships.

  1. Prestige

Students often make the mistake of thinking that private U.S. colleges are more prestigious. This is in part because of the fame of the “ivy leagues,” a group of private schools that include Harvard, Yale and Columbia.

You will find, however, that there are also many prestigious public colleges…

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