Top Private or Public (is it worth it?)
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.
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
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:
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.
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".