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Pros and Cons of Public Flagship vs Private Colleges

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Replies to: Pros and Cons of Public Flagship vs Private Colleges

  • privatebankerprivatebanker 5793 replies84 threads Senior Member
    edited April 2019
    @ucbalumnus I was answering the OPs original question. My answer wasn’t representing national data in all schools. He asked a specific question. In summary, to me it seemed to be why do the best students at his high performing type school eschew the state flagship, in a nutshell.
    edited April 2019
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  • socaldad2002socaldad2002 1736 replies33 threads Senior Member
    OP, here are a few examples of what I may be asking.

    I was recently at Duke and they have "DukeEngage" which is a free summer program where students go all over the world to help with special community projects. For example, one project involved undergrad students designing and implementing a long-term water access solution for communities in Madagascar. Another was engineering students designing a pedestrian bridge for better access between two communities in Bolivia.

    In addition, our tour guide explained that she wanted to take Farsi (Persian) for her foreign language requirement and even though only 3 students signed up for the class they still assigned a professor to teach this very small class. She said it was like having personal one-on-one attention.

    Lastly, she is also taking a Journalism class where her professor, who works for the NY Times, flies down every Thursday from NYC to teach her class.

    I don't know if these experiences are unique to private college undergrad students but it sure isn't the experience I had in college attending a second tier UC.

    Maybe having a $9 billion endowment at an elite college gives students a deeper and richer college experience?
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  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 1161 replies3 threads Senior Member
    Many times different issues get conflated on these threads. Three things come to mind.

    All parents/students should limit their consideration to colleges where the student will be able to graduate with zero (or near zero debt). Unfortunately this in not the case in many instances. I was watching a recent town hall broadcast when a freshman year student (at a small NE private school I think) prefaced her question with the fact that as a freshman she was already carrying $25k in debt. That just sounds insane.

    Only when financials are understood should students/parents look to the college experience that they want. Bonus points for students that are opinionated as to what they want to study because that allows for more detailed head-to-head comparisons. When considering colleges, quality programs count. Many say undergraduate education doesn't matter. If that's the case just go to your local community college or skip college all together (many successful people never graduated from college, right?). But if you do want to attend college try to find the best program that fits your style for the *money* you have available.

    When you are researching colleges be aware that not all schools are created equal. That just makes sense. Much of that has to do with money, history, and maybe some luck. But given two schools (that you can afford), an area of study, and a little time, it's pretty easy to get the info you need to quantitatively and qualitative rank the schools.
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  • LMK5LMK5 117 replies11 threads Junior Member
    @socaldad2002, yes, these examples you give are things that private schools can do if they wish. They make all their own decisions rather than have to get state-level approval like state universities must. It's the concierge version of college, and it better be for the price they're asking. Of course if you're lucky enough that they're willing to throw lots of money at you then the choice becomes easier, as long as it meets your other requirements.

    I just think that a family has to make the decision as to whether it's worth the tremendous cost difference, and I continuously see that families don't think it is, even when they have the ability to pay. Yesterday my kid came home and told us a familiar story that one of their fellow students had gotten accepted to Carnegie Mellon, rated number #1 for her major of choice--computer science--but decided instead to go to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo because of the cost differential. We do here of the odd case of someone going to Columbia, Yale, or Stanford and the like but they are rare, even though we have a top-rated HS in an affluent community.
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  • rosemaryandthymerosemaryandthyme 90 replies4 threads Junior Member
    @socaldad2002 I think it does depend on the specific public school and specific private. NYT's David Brooks used to teach a weekly class at public William and Mary. And from what I've heard from current students, W&M will still have three-student upper level classes even if no one else signs up.
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  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse 29876 replies59 threads Senior Member
    Well, what are the top schools in this country? A quick answer is HPYMC. Not a public in there. It’s a bit unusual that the top universities in a country are all private.

    So if you have the money, you go for the best. Why not? Especially in education. There are exceptions. The UCs, UVA , UT-Austin are string contenders over most private schools.
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  • Rivet2000Rivet2000 1161 replies3 threads Senior Member
    IMO identifying top schools in the country is interesting, but not necessarily as valuable as identifying top programs in the country. Here's what I mean. When I think of top schools, I think of schools that have breadth and depth with undergrad, grad, law schools, medical schools, and more. Typically, the schools I think of have a history of contributions to many academic fields. However, it may be better to look at top programs, because while I do believe, for example, that Harvard is a top school I do not think all of its programs are the top in the country.
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  • barronsbarrons 23069 replies1955 threads Senior Member
    About half of the new university based members of the National Academy of Science are at publics.
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 12669 replies29 threads Senior Member
    @socaldad2002, one thing to keep in mind is that you can't compare your time a generation ago at a public with a private now. Again, more than 1 variable at work.

    For instance, right now, everyone in the UT-Dallas business honors program can go on a mostly-free weeks-long educational trip abroad every year (you have to pay for airfare to get to and from the destination but then the honors program pays for the cost of everything else; and UTD tends to give merit scholarships and you pay in-state even if you get a small one).

    Not all honors college have such amazing perks but many do have some nice ones.

    Furthermore, a large uni is more likely to offer Farsi simply because it has more departments.
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  • PurpleTitanPurpleTitan 12669 replies29 threads Senior Member
    To build on what I said above, if the price differential is large enough, you can use the savings to fund multiple study-abroad or work-abroad projects, get your own private Farsi tutor, and probably even arrange for a journalist at a large newspaper (or who use to work at one) to give you your own private class and still come out ahead financially.
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  • natty1988natty1988 745 replies11 threads Member
    @MWolf well said and I agree.
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  • TooOld4SchoolTooOld4School 3359 replies12 threads Senior Member
    It always comes down to value and fit. My son attends Michigan (in-state) in engineering. Great experience, outstanding facilities, $20K/yr tuition, 10K living expenses, $30K total. The private alternatives - of which only a handful are ranked better - were over $65K. His cousin attended Caltech. $55K tuition + 15K expenses. His alternatives were equally expensive because his home state (NY) doesn't have an engineering school of the same caliber. Public options were not much cheaper either.

    The experience at Caltech was a lot more personal with outstanding facilities and professors. Not so much on the social side, including exposure to other students in the humanities and sports. At the same time, there is something to be said for size. My son at Michigan is heavily involved with his honor society and the symposiums and conferences that they put on. It's a lot harder to do that when your school has only a small number of students.

    Both kids attended the top private HS in their region. Most of the kids in the NY HS went private. Most of the kids in the Michigan HS went public. The vast majority of students at both HS could have afforded either.
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  • MWolfMWolf 1859 replies13 threads Senior Member
    @theloniusmonk @natty1988 Thank you both for your kind words.

    @TooOld4School "It always comes down to value and fit". Yep, though, because I got into alliterations when my kid was young and never got over them, I prefer: "Fit and Finances".
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 79734 replies714 threads Senior Member
    Lynnski wrote:
    It's true that most students go public. That's simply numbers. But why do so many of us buy into the notion that privates are actually better? To what degree is it about: Status? Facilities? Personal attention? Relationships? Class stratification?

    Probably because most people here think of HYPSM or AWS or other highly selective and prestigious school with a luxury class student experience (due to their wealth), rather than schools like Mount St. Mary's University ("drown the bunnies") when they see the word "private".
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