How is Tufts different from a public research university?

My question may sound snarky but I’m asking very genuinely: How is Tufts different from a public research university (aka state school)?

Tufts is currently my son’s top choice. We’ve visited and researched the school and have also spoken with friends whose kids are there now or have recently graduated. I’m satisfied that it’s a terrific school, but I’m not quite as clear on how it differs from a good state school. I would love to hear from others about what the differences are, because quite frankly I am trying to justify the price tag! :wink:

I have been a student and an instructor at state schools. I’m very familiar with that world. Looking at the courses my son would likely take in his first semester at Tufts, his experience would be pretty much the same as at a state school, especially one of the smaller ones. He would have freshman comp with an adjunct. His intro-level science class would be very large (200?), with lectures given by a prof but discussion sections with a grad student. Ditto his math class. His 4th class would probably be some GE requirement, and depending on what he selected that could be another large, intro-level class with TAs or it could be a small, seminar-style class led by a prof or an adjunct. He would have access to office hours and tutoring centers. He would form study groups with other kids in his classes, and they would have spaces around campus in which to meet. He would spend time in a lab run by a grad student. Just like every state school student.

I confess that when my son started looking at Tufts, I assumed it would be more similar to a LAC, in part because of the LAC price tag. But one of my kids goes to a LAC, and that is very different. No TAs ever. So far (and probably for the duration), only one adjunct, and only one class with more than 30 students. Labs run by profs.

Tufts also is more similar to a public research university in regard to senior theses; at Tufts and at state schools, only honors students do a senior thesis, but all LAC students do. Even for things like housing, Tufts seems more like a state school in that it doesn’t guarantee housing for four years. The main difference I’ve been able to discern is in the student body: students at Tufts are more similar to those I see on my other kid’s LAC campus.

Again, I want to emphasize that I understand Tufts is an excellent school. I would just like to know more about how it differs from a public university experience–especially in terms of academics–given that it has the private school price tag.

What public research university? UMass and SUNY are quite different from Berkeley and Michigan. You mention a “smaller” state university. Smaller state universities are second tier/directional schools. The caliber of student at such schools is quite different that at Tufts.

Top state schools may have freshman classes in excess of 600 students. There are no such classes at Tufts. A student should also be able to get the courses he needs or wants at Tufts compared to even the top state schools. Many students have reported being unable to graduate on time because they were closed out of required courses at even the best state schools.

LAC’s are mostly located in small college towns where off campus housing may be hard to find. Tufts is essentially an urban school with abundant albeit expensive off campus housing.

And of course a state school is subsidized for in state students by the taxpayer.

If my kid had been deciding between Tufts and U Michigan (instate) I’d have found it tough to swallow the cost differential. But ultimately it would have made it on to the applications list- it’s a fine school, and since we were full pay, we’d have applied with “eyes wide open”. The differences are more stark if you are talking about Southern CT State or Framingham State or UC Merced.

What kind of public U? And how do you define “a good state school” and for what? Kid wants to become a middle school gym teacher- there are literally 100 “good state schools” for that. Kid wants to study Classics or Renaissance history- the list starts to narrow a bit!

Help us understand what you are comparing it to- and we can probably help.

Tufts is a smallish private research university like Brandeis, Wake Forest, WashU, BostonU, etc. These universities have 5,000-9,000 undergraduates each, they have missions which are more heavily weighted towards research and graduate training than towards undergraduate education, and extensive PhD and masters programs.

Tufts’ CoA is no different than that of any other private research university. What makes many liberal arts colleges expensive is that they are private, not that they are LACs. Public LACs like UMN Morris or St. Mary’s have CoA of public universities, not of private liberal arts colleges.

Public research universities are larger, generally have a wider range of fields than private research universities, especially the smaller private Unis like Tufts, with the land grant schools also having extensive ag/natural resource schools as well. they have 20,000-50,000 undergraduates, similar missions as the rest of the research universities, with the added factor that their research and education mission is aimed mostly towards the residents of their state.

The confusion as to Tufts’ Carnegie Classification is due to the fact that it is the only research university which is a member of the NESCAC athletic conference.

@TomSrOfBoston - there are a large number of LACs in urban, and especially suburban areas, such as Trinity, Macalaster, Bryn Mawr, Haverford, etc), and many public research universities in rural areas (UConn, Penn State, Umass Amherst, etc).

Thanks for all the replies so far. There are some points I didn’t think of, such as the ease of getting classes. I assume that it would not be difficult to get into classes at Tufts! Would love to hear others’ experiences.

@Blossom - you ask what kind of public U. I hesitate to name schools because I don’t want to inadvertently invite negative remarks about any specific school. In general I’m thinking about flagship campuses of well-regarded schools with doctoral programs etc.
As for what my kid is interested in: a lot. That’s one reason why he’s drawn to a research uni vs a LAC–the vast array of majors. He most likely will not settle in engineering, although he hasn’t completely ruled it out. He’s very curious and already plans to go to grad school and/or law school.

It’s night and day.