Public vs. private colleges: Where to pursue your arts degree

Posted by Courtney Clancy on Jul 12, 2016 10:26:00 AM



There's a lot to think about as you decide where to pursue your arts degree. Between the hundreds of colleges and universities offering art programs across the country and your own list of needs and wants in your education and college experience, you have so much to consider. 

To narrow your pool of options and simplify the decision ahead of you, we've documented the key differences between public and private universities and colleges. Deciding which type of institution is best aligned with your academic goals and general preferences is a great first step in your college search.


What's the difference between public and private colleges?


1. Funding and cost of attendance:

Each institution, both public and private, has its own nuances and distinctions, and the differences described in this post are broad generalizations.  However, there is one fundamental and defining difference between public and private institutions: funding. 

Public institutions are those funded, in part, by the state government. In other words, a portion of tax revenues paid by residents of the state are used to fund the operations of the institution. For this reason, in-state students typically pay less than out-of-state students, as they pay taxes that benefit the public institutions. 

Meanwhile, private colleges are funded almost entirely by private contributions like endowments, donations and tuition. This usually means a much higher cost of attendance for students (perhaps even higher than out-of-state tuition at a public university). 

Regardless of where you decide to attend, it's important to always check for scholarship and financial aid opportunities available to you. Tuition costs can seem intimidating at first glance, but by reaching out to the school's financial aid office or representatives from the program or academic area you're interested in, you can often find opportunities and aid packages to lessen your out-of-pocket expenses. 


2. Size and student population:

On average, private colleges tend to be much smaller than their public counterparts. While public universities may enroll tens of thousands of undergraduate students, most private colleges only have a few thousand or less.

What does this mean for you? It depends. Private colleges usually boast small class sizes, but depending on your area of study, a public university may offer classes and faculty to student ratios that are equally intimate. Niche arts programs like those at Western Michigan University's Frostic School of Art are especially close-knit, allowing for a great deal of student-faculty collaboration and individual attention.

Because of their small size, you'll also find that private schools may have limited, but reputable and highly-specialized, academic offerings. On the other hand, public universities possess a wide range of possible majors and minors to consider. That said, it's important to compare your academic interests and career goals with the offerings and specializations of the colleges you're considering.


3. Campus life and social scene:

It's no surprise that public universities host a multitude of extracurricular activities. From varsity and intramural sports to clubs for nearly any hobby or interest, public university campuses are places full of social activity, and there's no shortage of opportunities for involvement. 

While public schools are known for such healthy social scenes, that's not to say that private colleges are lacking. In fact, private schools often feature similar extracurricular offerings, but just on a smaller scale. Additionally, because private colleges tend to draw in more geographically-diverse student populations, the extracurricular activities and social atmosphere of the campus can be just as vibrant. 


Which type of institution is right for you?

Choosing between a public university and a private college all comes down to you and your own preferences and aspirations. How important is it that you have access to endless clubs and activities?  In what type of classroom setting and learning environment do you thrive? What scholarships and financial resources will you have access to in funding your education, and what institution will fulfill your academic and artistic needs given your financial circumstances?

According to the Bureau of labor and statistics, the unemployment rate among those possessing a bachelor's degree is half that of individuals with only a high school education. So, no matter where you decide to pursue your undergraduate education, rest assured that you're setting yourself up for success in the workforce. 

Still not sure which type of school is for you? We've assembled 10 reasons to attend a public university for your art degree. Download the full list below to get a perspective!


10 Reasons to attend a public university for your art degree


Topics: College Decision, Admissions

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