Pros and Cons of Public Flagship vs Private Colleges

Many private schools have restrictions on changing major or division. CMU is an example where changing into SCS is very difficult. Even Harvard has a restricted major, VES.

That’s correct. UC has made no secret about giving admission tips to first gen students. Maybe good public policy, but closes out much of the class to college educated parents. (Approx. 40% of the matriculating Frosh to UCLA and Cal and other UCs are first gen.)

We all have local stories about kids getting into an Ivy but rejected by Cal, or into Stanford and rejected by UCLA.

Then of course, there is ED – as others have noted, finaid at the Ancient Eight is excellent. For those fortunate to be accepted, it can be cheaper to send a kid back east than to a UC at instate rates.

UCB web sites say 23% of frosh are first generation to college. First generation to college students are more heavily represented among transfer students at 44%.

Colleges and universities use different pedagogical models and often differ in terms of their values-with small LACs valuing the teaching model far more than universities; universities valuing the goal of contributing new knowledge much more than do LACs.

Some elite privates are feeders to lucrative internships and job opportunities at employers that are concerned about prestige such as investment banks or consulting companies.

@bluebayou It will only be cheaper to send your child to “those” privates back east if you are eligible to receive Fin Aid. In CA coastal areas, at least, many middle class families are shut out of any financial aid so no matter how great their fabled aid is, it’s a moot point. A lot middle and upper middle class families would prefer to send their kids to UC’s–especially if they have multiple kids–but cannot because they will be denied, even though they are excellent students. Those who can afford $70,000 per year have that choice, but most do not.

There are many reasons to go private but smaller classes and intimate communities attract most. You get deeper interaction with your professors and peers. Even best state school (even with 10% auto-admit rate) overall accept 50% applicants which brings average IQ level down. State schools often have more focus on degrees for jobs while good private try to provide a broader education with strong focus on major .

Of course, I thought I made that clear. But I apologize if I did not.

It really depends on how you define middle class. Financial aid at HYP includes incomes up to ~$200k. (To me that’s a little better than ‘middle’ class.) But more importantly, HYPS (and several others) cap the home equity portion in their calculation of financial need. That is a massive boon to the ‘coastal’ class.

Of course, down the food chain are plenty of colleges that offer merit money that helps reduce teh net price of a private.

… and because they refuse to consider UCSC, UCR, and UCM. Or they overestimated their chances based on comparing their HS weighted GPA to UC recalculated weighted capped GPA.

Yes, that’s true but HYPS is only four schools–maybe there are a few others that give such good aid, but not too many more. And even if they cap financial aid at $200,000, those families that are at or near that number will receive very little–a mere token and not nearly enough to make it a wash with tuition at any UC. I’m not complaining or whining about the bad deal California families have, just reporting what I’ve found to be my experience and that of those around me. It can be very hard to gain acceptance to a UC, and many families go to privates reluctantly because their kids haven’t been accepted.

Remember that financial aid includes loans- not ideal. It does matter which state you live in- the CA situation is different than others with equally good public U’s. Honors programs also make a huge difference- they vary from school to school, and among state flagships.

So- this thread is more specific- pros and cons for California kids.

Another anecdotal story.

My son, a senior in college, was accepted to in-state (CA) and out-of-state publics and privates. His finalists were essentially a UC and a private in CA. He chose the private for a few reasons which in retrospect, ended up being a saving grace for him.

  • He received merit aid at the private he attends. Not enough to bring it down to exactly a price equal to the UC school, but close enough that finances were a distant background decision point.
  • He started in mechanical engineering. At the UC school, it is an impacted major along with many/majority of majors. He was given "the grid" that defined his class path that would get him through in four year with literally one or two slots his senior year to pick classes of his choosing. If he chose to switch majors along the way, he would have a much more limited set of options then when he was applying as an incoming freshman and he would certainly have had to take quite a few community college classes to keep up and graduate in four years. Graduating in four year was very important to him and that is why he eliminated the University of Wisconsin were he was flat out told by the engineering department that most engineers take 5 years to graduate due to the difficulty of getting the required classes. He ended up transferring to Econ after two years at his current school and will graduate in four years with two summer classes there and no community college classes. He was able to pull this off because he was able to get into the extra classes he needed to catch up with little difficulty during the fall/spring sessions.
  • We picked up a friend of his older sister at UCLA when he was a senior in high school. We asked the friend about the long line streaming out of a door on a building, along the length of the building, and around the corner to who knows how far. She said "Oh, that's just the line for dinner at the cafeteria". It impacted my son, he realized that with large numbers come logistics and supplies issues that have to be navigated.
  • He attended a private high school. He felt more at home at a mid-sized private then at a large public. His younger brother is graduating from the same HS and is looking forward to attending an OOS public flagship because he doesn't want to feel like he is in another smallish environment (like myself). Different strokes for different folks.
  • An additional benefit of his choice is that he has built great relationships with many of his tenured professors. He has built great relationship with a professor that he never took a class from; this prof helped him land a highly sought after summer internship after his JR year which was an important factor in getting the job he has accepted upon graduation this June. His schools alumni network is also fantastic, regional for sure, yet fantastic. They take care of their own.

This is a view into a single decision on why a private school was a better choice then a flagship public. Again, my youngest has chosen the OOS flagship public route and we are looking forward to the next four years of his experiences.

@foobar1 Overall, when it comes to engineering programs, public schools tend to have better setups for corporate internships. Half the internship pages of “elite” colleges are blind links, and their list of internships makes it clear that they think that their graduates should all be going to grad school. I would guess that it’s not that different in other STEM fields.

^^I would state the exact opposite about internships in private v. public. Only a student at a particularly school (elite or other) is able to access the internship pages of a college (particularly a private college) so not sure how anyone would know “half of them” are blind links. Connections at privates are second to none with the strong alumni network backing of a private univ, internships are more numerous statistically, making the best ones more easily attainable. Most public students don’t have/feel a loyalty to hire other grads from their school compared to the privates - I see this a lot, private alum networks are amazingly strong.

A few of the biggest pros to private we found are the connections/relationships made with other students and faculty - their mentoring and the benefits have been huge for my students during and after they graduate. Avoiding the masses/crowds in college - it’s not a number of students thing, it’s how well the school is managed and resources are funded - privates do that well. The ability to change majors and double major easily was critical to our decisions. Easy class registration with access to the cool classes. College is for exploring, not having to be locked into a set path. Access to unique opportunities throughout the four years - studies/research/participation and not fighting/struggling to get in them - we have found this to be one of the best parts of the private school experience.

As a UCR alumnus from way back in the day when it was a very small campus of around 5,000 students (now almost 25,000 students), it prided itself on its “Personal Touch”…small classes, easy access to professors, double dorm rooms only, superior financial aid for those in need, diversity, and the easy ability to graduate in only 4 years…received a great education/college experience and would highly recommend UCR or ANY UC (not just Berkeley/UCLA)…the University of California System is the best PUBLIC system in the world where you will receive a top notch education at any of them!

I would beg to differ that alumni of publics are not loyal. I would put any private up against my child’s public for internship and job possibilities.

@scubadive – I would say the same of the public I went to. Then, and now.

@blueskies2day I said “blind link”, not “requires password access”. That means that the page to which the link was connected has either crashed or some other error has occurred, and the webmaster has not corrected it. I have found this at a number of private non-tech universities. I am decently tech savvy, and I can tell when certain webpages are restricted to people with password access.

When I say that Princeton CS seems to want their graduates to go to graduate school, that is because , on their “Jobs & Life After Princeton”, at the very top, the very first thing that a student sees is “Graduate School”. Then “Summer Programming Experience”, then “Computer Science TAs”, then “Other Jobs in the Computer Science Department”, then “Jobs in Other Departments” Only then, as the last resort after all those ideas, do you find “Finding an Internship”.

Most internships are not with expensive law firms, politicians, or banking companies. Most are with corporations, especially large tech companies. The people who are in charge there generally are not graduates of small private colleges, but of large public engineering powerhouses. They do not belong to the Old Money Club who still all go to private colleges only, and run much of the banking and other financial,institutions.

@MWolf wrote:

Absolutely agreed. DS1 attending a public tech university and received internship to a top company which regularly recruits there and has many alumni at the company. I do realize that private universities provide a lot of resources not available at public universities, but if my kid can’t get in, it has no value for us.

DS2 will most likely have stats/ GPA and course rigor to apply to the top private universities. But we realize he is in the worst demographic (unhooked,upper middle class, Asian descent, male, from NJ), and is “average excellent” with no big time accomplishments in his EC’s. We will be cheerleading many of the state flagship honors colleges instead, the most likely scenario for possible acceptances.

Access to internships at tech companies is, for the most part, fairly straight forward (apply, code test, etc) so students from any school can engage (even without on-campus recruiting events). Campus recruiting events do, however, make it easier as some hold first round reviews and even code tests on-campus (advantage schools with many of these). These events are typically listed on department websites.

There are, however, many ways that networks can assist. For instance, at many tech companies you can skip the code test and go directly to f2f interviews if an existing employee will vouch for you. So, at schools whose graduate programs funnel into specific companies the coattails of the grad students assist the undergrads (same when profs also work/consult at certain companies). Another way networks help is in startups where current students (grad and undergrad) as well as profs either hire interns or help them engage with startups (the startup culture is heavily word of mouth).