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Top Private or Public (is it worth it?)

CU123CU123 Registered User Posts: 1,256 Senior Member
edited October 1 in Parents Forum
The case for top Privates (Ivies, top LAC's, top 20 Uni's) and my experience having sent my own to a flagship university and a top private university.

Pro's
It's all about the cohort for the tippy tops, these are the classmates of which many will be movers and shakers in their fields/industries. The cohorts are also more homogeneous in the their academic prowess.
Much better teacher to student ratio. Professors are usually leaders in there fields.
Individual attention in advising, career counseling and other matters including internships.
Excellent FA no matter what state

Con's
If your making ($100K - 300K) your going to pay (roughly) 1/4 of your GROSS income toward total costs.
Usually no or little merit aid.



The case for flagship public Universities:

Pro's
You can't beat the price for instate tuition
They are usually stronger in engineering than top privates (there are obvious exceptions, Stanford, MIT, Caltech, etc.)
There will be movers and shakers in the top public flagships but not nearly as many (percentage wise) than top privates due to the stronger cohorts at the top privates.
Can be some merit aid depending on state.

Con's
You don't get the individual attention that top privates give their cohorts. Your on your own and it's more or less a sink or swim mentality.
Large classes and higher teacher to student ratios
Not much FA
OOS you pay the same as a private without all the benefits of a private, IMO only worth it if money is no objection AND you want to get the best available education for your child.


Having said all that the real advantage of top privates over publics is the cohort. These are the people that your child/student will make lifelong friends and connections to. Neither will guarantee success but one does increase the probabilities, "its not what you know its who you know".

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Replies to: Top Private or Public (is it worth it?)

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 62,077 Senior Member
    edited October 1
    Regarding FA, most of the "top" privates use the non custodial parent, so students with uncooperative divorced parents will be shut out of FA. Public school FA for in state students varies by state -- some good, some bad.
  • hannuhyluhannuhylu Registered User Posts: 227 Junior Member
    The cohort is only applicable to certain fields dare I say hardly any!!

    Business, politics, and academia I could see it making a difference, but any normal job imo it means nothing





  • AroundHereAroundHere Registered User Posts: 2,202 Senior Member
    Agree with @Youdon'tsay

    It's actually a very nice problem to have if you live in a state with "top" public universities and are also offered admittion to a "top" private school.

    In reality, a person's choices might be the best school in our state system, but a campus that is still badly underfunded, or a name brand school that didn't offer enough money to attend without massive debt, or a "middle-ish" private that offered a merit award. Throw in some geography issues and maybe a few differences in how the major program is implemented and it gets even more confusing.
  • 3puppies3puppies Registered User Posts: 999 Member
    If you are making under $160K and have multiple children, there are absolutely NO cons to your argument about privates - they will be less expensive than top publics, for a better education.

    Your entire post presumes the candidate is a good enough student to get accepted into both.

    You seem to ignore the fact that these kids are the best of the best. These students will undoubtedly be smart enough to figure all of this out.
  • billcshobillcsho Registered User Posts: 16,452 Senior Member
    edited October 1
    FA really depends on which public college, particularly when one factors in merit aids too. For a student considering those top privates, merit scholarships are possible at public schools.
  • twogirlstwogirls Registered User Posts: 5,779 Senior Member
    Some OOS publics that meet full need might give better FA than some top privates. It depends on your family and the individual circumstances.
  • me29034me29034 Registered User Posts: 1,167 Senior Member
    OOS publics are not the same price as privates for families that don't qualify for need based aid, and whose kids don't have the stats for significant merit. Our three choices came down to top 50 private at $70k, lower ranked private at $50k ($20k merit), and an OOS public at $40.
  • twogirlstwogirls Registered User Posts: 5,779 Senior Member
    edited October 2
    Every family is different. Some OOS public schools that meet need will consider circumstances that top privates won't consider.... every family is different and comes to the table with their own set of circumstances. What works for one, may not work for another. Blanket statements don't work for " meets full need" public or private schools. Additionally.... EFCs can be very different depending on the school
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 62,077 Senior Member
    edited October 2
    3puppies wrote:
    If you are making under $160K and have multiple children, there are absolutely NO cons to your argument about privates - they will be less expensive than top publics, for a better education.

    Not necessarily true, assuming in-state public, and depending on the state. For example, USC costs more than UCLA for a two parent family with two kids (one in college):
    Income		USC net price	UCLA net price (in-state)
     30000		10500		 8800
     60000		14827		12483
    100000		26499		23606
    160000		41110		34047
    

    http://esdweb.esd.usc.edu/NPC/Home/Parent
    https://app.financialaid.ucla.edu/FASEstimator/Dependent.aspx

    On the other hand, if you live in a state like Pennsylvania or Illinois that has poor in-state financial aid at its public universities, you may find that they are less competitive on costs.
  • tutumom2001tutumom2001 Registered User Posts: 522 Member
    I went to a state flagship. I have many friends who went to Ivies and other top LACs. Honestly, they aren't any more successful than the state graduates - just more in debt.

    I also had very few large classes. Most of my classes were 25-30 people. The large lecture classes I did have were those pesky prereqs that often met 2x/week with a smaller discussion class or lab the third day.

    All of the professors in my major knew who I was, as did many professors outside of my major. Individual attention was not a problem, and even the "other" professors were more than willing to meet with a student who needed help.

    I can't speak for every state, but enough of the "movers and shakers" in my state went to public universities that this isn't a problem. In fact, my friends who went to the "top" schools had a harder time making connections because there are just fewer people to connect to.

    I imagine that the pros and cons are going to differ from one region of the country to another. I imagine that a degree from Harvard is going to have more pull in New England than in the Midwest, for example.

    My advice: apply to a variety of schools and pick one that is going to provide you with little debt and that is located in an area where you want to land upon graduation.
  • youceeyoucee Registered User Posts: 1,010 Senior Member
    @ucbalumnus If a family has assets above what is considered standard by a private, you can end up paying much more. In our case, according to USC's net price calculator, net price would have been much more than the values in your table. Even if a half-tuition scholarship had come into play, the difference would have been about $16k-$17k per year more than UCLA. We got wildly different net prices when running NPCs last year at similar schools. For instance, Northwestern and USC would come out around $49k-50k and Vanderbilt between $25k-$30k. So you can't just go by income, some of the privates will really dig into your savings too if you've lived frugally. As for the cohort from our HS who go to UCLA, it's as strong as anything at the school other than HYPSM/Caltech, and then only slightly less..
  • wis75wis75 Registered User Posts: 12,242 Senior Member
    Disagree with some of your assumptions, OP.

    Public U's do not always have larger classes than elite private U's, nor do they give less individual attention. Look at Harvard's class sizes etc. The number of students hearing a lecture does not matter. Most will have small discussion groups for asking questions et al. Hearing the words of an excellent professor trumps a small group led by an average professor.

    Students do get personal attention at large U's- especially those in Honors programs and in the major. Less coddling/hand holding for freshmen- but then the students are independent enough and can do it. Some are best nurtured by being allowed to manage themselves independently. Top students often already know how to swim and thrive when being allowed to choose their path.

    My views may be skewed by coming from a top tier state with an elite flagship. But- the top students in any state will find their peers in their flagship U. That is why they have Honors programs/colleges. Public flagships have two tiers of students- the elite and the above average rest of the student body. There isn't enough room in the private colleges to fit all in the elite top tier. Look at the undergrad schools of so many renowned professors, many who went on to elite schools for their grad work. Also look at who wrote the textbooks used by the elite schools. I did that once at the Harvard bookstore.

    A top public U can be so much better than most private LACs. Add to the pro column a much wider variety of courses to choose from. Plus a wider variety of students to interact with. Small schools can be so limiting.

    It isn't all about the money.
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