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Public v Private

hansolosthansolost Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
edited September 2013 in College Search & Selection
At the risk of sounding snobby I'm going to generalize a little about public schools. My opinion (I haven't attended any college so this is just based off of what I've heard and researched) is that it is the average public schools job to ensure that the kids of a state (which ever the college is in) have the opportunity to go to college. A lot of kids who aren't driven, aren't good at school, and aren't very interested in their education get accepted and go to public school. There are definitely some super smart kids and plenty of kids who care a lot about their education, but compared to a private school there are gonna be a lot more kids who don't care. I'm not judging anyone who went to public school!!! Please understand that.

My question is whether this generalization applies to more selective public schools. I'm thinking about UMCP, UMAnnArbor, U Delaware, and U Pittsburgh. I live in Maine and I'm gonna apply to UMaine as a safety school, but I'm afraid that it will fit the generalization above. How do the other schools I've listed compare the my generalization? What would a private school have that these don't?

(I don't want this to alter the conversation a lot, but I'm planning on studying engineering. I'm saying that just in case it affects someones response)

Thanks for any words of advice
Post edited by hansolost on

Replies to: Public v Private

  • 110percentwahoo110percentwahoo Registered User Posts: 248 Junior Member
    Wow. You obviously haven't looked at University of Michigan, University of California Berkeley, University of California Los Angeles, University of Virginia, University of North Carolina, College of William and Mary or Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Texas Austin close. Getting into any of these schools OOS would be an accomplishment and they would provide you with a top notch education that is better than many privates. They're also filled with a bunch of over-achievers (can confirm that one for UVA).

    I think your opinion is largely shaped by your surroundings. Generally speaking the state schools in the Northeast are, as you said, not on the same level as the privates in the area (aka, Ivies, top LACs, etc.). Outside the Northeast though the state schools tend to offer educations that aren't too far behind the local top private school and in some cases, superior.

    University of Delaware, University of Pittsburgh and University of Maryland College Park are definitely good schools but not worth paying out of state dollars if your goal is "prestige". Since engineering is your goal I'd recommend looking at Georgia Tech, University Michigan and maybe Virginia Tech if you are heart set of engineering.
  • SikorskySikorsky Registered User Posts: 5,851 Senior Member
    My question is whether this generalization applies to more selective public schools. I'm thinking about UMCP, UMAnnArbor, U Delaware, and U Pittsburgh.

    It most certainly does not.

    As far as I can tell, it doesn't apply to my local community college, either.
  • hansolosthansolost Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
    I have looked at Umichigan. It would be a reach for me. How about the other schools I mentioned. How are Udelaware and Upitt? If money isn't an issue would these schools be just as good as a private school with similar scores?
  • IvytIvyt Registered User Posts: 3,531 Senior Member
    Whether a school is public or private doesn't matter: strength in your field, affordability, fit, employment/internship opportunities, whether it will prep you for grad school, and prestige(if you care) matter.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 73,700 Senior Member
    hansolost wrote:
    My opinion (I haven't attended any college so this is just based off of what I've heard and researched) is that it is the average public schools job to ensure that the kids of a state (which ever the college is in) have the opportunity to go to college.

    This is not necessarily true, since, in some states, financial aid is poor, so students from low income families are unable to afford even the in-state public universities (e.g. PA and IL are the best known examples). In those states, the in-state tuition discount is mainly a nice discount for the upper-middle and upper income families sending their kids to college.

    Selectivity of both public and private schools varies; you will find a wide variation in the level of selectivity among both public and private schools. "Flagship" public schools do tend to get some of the top students in the state, who may not have gotten into the most selective private schools, so such students may be on the same campus as those who just barely passed the admission threshold, which may be low at some "flagship" public schools but high at others.

    Do not expect good financial aid at most out-of-state public schools, although some may offer large merit scholarships (e.g. Delaware's Du Pont scholarship). Check the net price calculators of both public and private schools you are considering if cost and financial aid is a concern for you.

    Engineering is not generally a "gut" major due to ABET accreditation requirements, so at less selective schools, the students with lower ability and motivation get "weeded out" after experiencing such courses as math, physics, chemistry, (depending on major for the following) computer science or computing for engineers, statics or solid mechanics, materials, electronics, etc..
  • hansolosthansolost Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
    Thanks, ucbalumnus. Someone mentioned prestige, which isn't particularly important to me , but job prospects are. Would I be as likely to get a good engineering internship or job at Umaine as at Udelaware? I'm sure school name matters but how much does it matter in the engineering world?
  • teenbodybuilderteenbodybuilder Registered User Posts: 1,649 Senior Member
    Privates may not give you a better education than publics, but they will give you a more personal education. I've also noticed privates have better amenities than publics. I'd rather go to a good private than an OOS flagship, but that's just me.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 73,700 Senior Member
    There is generally a local bias in recruiting, so going to a school near employers you would like to work at after graduation can be advantageous (especially for smaller employers with smaller recruiting budgets that are less likely to travel to a lot of colleges).

    If any of the schools have post-graduation surveys like these:
    You may want to look them up, but be careful about comparing different schools, due to different surveying and reporting methodology.
  • whenhenwhenhen Registered User Posts: 5,638 Senior Member
    Teenybodybuilder, that depends on which privates you're comparing to which publics. At my state flagship, almost all classes in my major have 30 or fewer students, the department regularly funds trips that undergrads go on with professors, and it hosts weekly colloquiums where students meet with top industry professionals. I'd argue that the level of attention I'm receiving is equal to, if not superior than most privates.

    On the other hand, there are many privates which offer excellent across the board support.
  • teenbodybuilderteenbodybuilder Registered User Posts: 1,649 Senior Member
    For me, I'm comparing UMiami to UMD and UVA. The class sizes are the smallest at Miami and the campus is much smaller and nicer in general. I think it is just more personal in general. I will get a great education at any one of the 3.
  • AlexandreAlexandre Registered User Posts: 24,617 Senior Member
    teenbodybuilder, I suggest you inspect UVa more closely. Very few private universities can match it, let along beat it, where undergraduate academic experience is concerned. Some public universities have facilities that over 90% of private universities can only dream of having.

    hansolost, if you are interested in Chemical Engineering, Delaware is a great option, as are Wisconsin-Madison and Minnesota-Twin Cities. Those universities have top rated programs and strong ties to companies such as DuPont, 3M and the petrochemicals.
  • tk21769tk21769 Registered User Posts: 10,496 Senior Member
    My opinion (I haven't attended any college so this is just based off of what I've heard and researched) is that it is the average public schools job to ensure that the kids of a state (which ever the college is in) have the opportunity to go to college.

    The mission of state universities is to serve the taxpaying citizens of the state (including not only individual citizens but also corporate citizens.) Undergraduate education is not the only objective or even necessarily the primary one.

    Historically, the public land-grant university system was established during and after the civil war to address the need, accelerated by the industrial revolution, for applied scientific and technical knowledge in fields such as agriculture, engineering, manufacturing, communications, and transportation. The curriculum and focus departed from the traditional liberal arts emphasis on cultivating well-rounded individual thought-leaders for the church, the state, and local communities.

    Aside from the land-grant universities, many state universities originated as normal schools (schools devoted to training school teachers ). Many "directional" state universities started as such. The needs of growing immigrant populations and changing class structures (including a growing middle class) were addressed not only by public colleges but also by the private schools USNWR calls "regional" universities (many of which are Roman Catholic schools in old industrial cities.) Growing cities needed accountants, newspaper reporters, and civil servants. These needs were served by other variations on the traditional liberal arts curriculum.

    Today, most public and private schools offer essentially the same set of traditional liberal arts majors (English, history, biology, math, economics, etc.), in addition to any pre-professional programs they might have. Depending on which public school you are comparing to which private school, there may be some difference in emphasis. The richest, most selective private schools draw students from all over the country. They tend to offer (especially at the small LACs) a fairly high level of student-faculty engagement, with many small discussion classes and frequent writing assignments even during the first two years. Even at the most selective public flagships, usually most students are from in-state; classes during the first two years tend to be larger (sometimes much larger); there tend to be more pre-professional programs. Beyond that, it's hard to make too many meaningful generalizations (and even these generalizations sometimes break down in comparing specific schools). Some schools on both sides of the comparison (such as UVa or Cornell) really blur any such distinctions we might want to make.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Forum Champion Financial Aid, Forum Champion Alabama Posts: 84,614 Forum Champion
    There are a small number of very selective privates. There are a good number of privates that are desperate for students in order to keep the lights on. So, don't assume that privates are better or that they all have better students.
  • teenbodybuilderteenbodybuilder Registered User Posts: 1,649 Senior Member
    Problem with UVA is that their OOS acceptance rate is so low. I can't really like the school because my stats aren't that competitive OOS. UVA also has grade deflation...I need a good gpa for medical school.
  • tk21769tk21769 Registered User Posts: 10,496 Senior Member
    ^^ Here's one list of the 75 most selective schools (by SAT scores, rank, and admit rate):


    All but 7 (and all in the top 25) are private.
    Maybe there are relatively more private schools at the bottom, too.
    I don't know. If you look at the lowest 20 in the stateuniversity.com ranking by SAT alone, you'll see a mix.

    Those top 75 (or so) command a lot of attention on CC. Most students go to public schools and schools in their own states. It is strong students who are shopping across a broader geographic area who have the most choices, and therefore may have the most to gain from a forum like College Confidential. If they want to go out of state and depend on a lot of need-based aid, private schools often make more sense. Public schools tend to offer more/better choices for engineering students. For full-pay students, public schools often are much less expensive even at OOS rates.
This discussion has been closed.