Thoughts on Public Universities...

<p>Just wanted to know what you all thought about public universities. Not to offend those who attended or who have children that attend public universities, but I think that I have just been traumatized by public high school. In addition, the thought of over 10,000 kids squished into an underfunded university just doesn't sound so hot. Maybe it has something to do with college size than public v. private - but I have also HATED my experiences with the administration at Stony Brook. Talk about bureaucracy! I have been trying to get an old, mistaken "W" off my transcript for a year...and still no luck. Today I was shuffled from the registrar, to academic affairs, to the office of the dean, to academic advising, and finally to student records. When I got there, I asked them for EVERY document in my records and they told me that they don't store records. IT IS THE OFFICE OF RECORDS. Finally, after a little pushing and threatening (I can get mean), they gave in and said "FINE WE'LL LOOK BUT NOTHING IS GOING TO BE IN THERE". Of course, sure enough, there was my letter of appeal from over 2 years ago. Ugh, so frustrating.</p>

<p>I just never want to deal with that when I get to "real" college. I don't know, perhaps I've taken the public thing too far, but it's an opinion.</p>

<p>I am a huge fan of public universities. They are usually 75% cheaper than privates and offer the same education, while providing an awesome party atmosphere. GO STATE U! You people can pay your $40,000 a year for your never heard of LACs, good luck with many years of debt!</p>

<p>joev, cost is not the whole pay more, you get more.</p>

<p>Also, I remember seeing statistics that people from public u's make less...</p>

<p>and also..........public universities are much less generous than private ones</p>

<p>Some public universities are excellent. I would have no problem sending my children to places like St. Mary's College of Maryland or the University of Michigan or William and Mary. Others, however, have their problems. But then, that's also true about PRIVATE schools. Just because a school is "private" doesn't guarantee academic quality either. In both cases, it's up to the buyer to do the due dilligence to find the difference between the good ones and the so-so ones.</p>

<p>I went to a private school for undergrad and a public school for grad school. I got a good enducation at both, but both were also bureaucratic. Don't think that you escape incompetence and bureaucracy simply by going to a private school.</p>

<p>Private does not necessarily mean efficient.</p>

<p>Not all public universities are underfunded and the last evidence I saw suggested that after a few years the differences in salaries are related less to where you went to school than how well you did in school. People who work hard get paid more and those who don't don't and it relatively little to do with your alma mater. And salaries have to be a lot higher to compensate for the much larger student loans. </p>

<p>Likewise, studies people have quoted here show that there's very little difference in getting into good graduate programs between public and private universities, important because it's the last school you go to that usually matters in your salary, not the first.</p>

<p>All in all, as with many things the answer to the question, "which is better" is "it depends".</p>

<p>I went public, my husband went public, so far my first two kids have gone private. Why? Simple answer: They fit better there. </p>

<p>Long answer: Oldest S, a "brainy" type, (sounds better than "nerd") applied to both types. He got full ride at local state U. We encouraged him to accept, which he was reluctant to do. To help convince him, I took him there for another tour. (We'd been many times.) Business school dean didn't know of our appt. and was rather rude until he realized S already was admitted on scholarship, then became ingratiating. The tour guide, a student, asked each kid in the group what sport they played. Looked non-plussed when S said none. Bragged about parties, and how little studying was necessary. How everybody comes with roommates already picked out from their friends from HS. Only a few unfortunates have to go into the roommate drawings. I tried to stay positive, but confided later to my husband that I was appalled. S spent most of his HS years not fitting in, and I wanted something different for college. A few days later, Penn's admission offer came, with offer of grant money to cover all "need" for all four years. We bit the bullet, did some spreadsheets, and decided that money wasn't everything.</p>

<p>Certainly there have been some frustrating moments there -- dorms are nasty, for instance. Not every employee has been helpful. S had to deal once with a vindictive TA. But he has grown, has remained positive and enthusiastic about the school, has received a quality education, found a great group of like-minded friends, even started playing sports! Loved every minute; so much better than HS. Jury still out on whether this education will lead him to bigger jobs or just bigger debts. </p>

<p>Flip side, my husband and I also received quality educations that led to good jobs, and with smaller (me) or no (him) loans. But we are not our S and we have no regrets about his decision.</p>

<p>U of Michigan is trying to counter the image of an administration gone awry. When son went there as a prospective matriculant (forgot the term used in U Mich but it's for people who got admitted), they put up a very well-organized show. The Honors department also got in the act as did all the colleges within the university and the research programs. We were impressed. They put up a great show which made me think they have their act together and this is normal?</p>

<p>And I don't mean "show" in the cynical sense. They put up a very organized day, that's what I meant.</p>

<p>Public universities less generous? Depends on what state you live in. Florida has a very generous merit scholarship program.</p>

<p>MANY public universities are excellent overall or have particular programs that are excellent. I am a product of public high school, private college, public grad school. My kids went to private colleges. I teach at a major public university.</p>

<p>Cost is one factor involved in the choice. Prestige or bragging rights seems to be another. But to me the biggest issue for a kid looking for colleges is the style and fit of a place to the kid's tastes and interests. You can get a fabulous education at a public university but may not like the typical large size of such places (the effects of which can be ameliorated somewhat if you are in an honors college or a residential college within the university). Alternatively, you may really want to enjoy big time college spectator sports (either at a public or a private) and there's nothing like the excitement of these events. Or you may like the enormous variety of courses and programs that you can enjoy at a large (public or private) university.</p>

<p>I am surprised sometimes by the stereotyping of colleges and universities by "type." There are so many variations within each "type" (lac, large private, public, etc.) that you really should be looking for fit and cost/benefit on multiple dimensions and not get hung up with the broader labels.</p>

<p>Frankly there are excellent public universities and not so great public universities, just as there are excellent private colleges and not so great private colleges. It is hard to compare a generic public university with a generic private school. But the size issue that you describe is real. It translates into lack of personal attention, inability to get into certain classes and large class size. On the other hand, public schools can be far cheaper than comparable private ones. So you have to decide where your priorities are.</p>

<p>However, don't forget the honors programs within public universities that try to simulate small college structure and small public schools like St. Mary's and William and Mary. Here you might be able to get the best of both worlds.</p>

<p>There are some students that actually like the large size, anonymity and freedom provided by large public schools. My rule of thumb is that if you are self motivated, know what you want to major in and relatively independent, you will do fine in a large public university. If you don't fall in this category and can afford it, look into smaller publics or privates.</p>

<p>Hopefully you'll get inot a private university. However, its fairly easy to select public universities which would be generally preferable to specific private ones, depending on your interests and point of view. </p>

<p>Some of your gripe above seems to be related to size and bureaucracy. But small places are able to screw up fairly well from time to time also.</p>

<p>Agree with others that it depends on the specific school. I don't think it's fair to generalize here. Not all public Us are huge diploma mills. I wouldn't expect that your bad experience in HS will necessarily carry over to "Public U". And, the thread about honors colleges is interesting...though, that won't eliminate the administrative issues related to larger schools. </p>

<p>William adn Mary is public. Do you put them into this category?</p>

<p>I went to Ohio State as an undergrad and Cornell as a graduate student and teach at a public university so I can talk from my limited experience. First, I believe I got as good an undergraduate education at OSU as I would have received had I chosen to go to a private university. I admittedly entered Cornell with some doubts but after a few weeks it became evident that I was as adequately prepared as my classmates.</p>

<p>Will the overall college experience at a large public university be different from a LAC or midsized private university? Of course! Sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better. Almost without exception intro and survey courses will be very large, sometimes 300+ lectures. Small recitation sections will almost always be taught by TA's. However once the class size approaches about 50, the numbers become irrelevent. In fact I think the student get more individual attention with a large lecture and 25 seat recitations vs a lecture with 50 students. As a frosh you will get to know few tenured faculty. I believe that for sciences and math the lecture/recitation format is a fine teaching pedagogy. Not as good for most humanities and socsci subjects. However remember that in college most learning occurs outside the classroom.</p>

<p>There are challenges that are more common at large public universities. Academic advising is often not as good and greater attention needs to be paid to scheduling in order to graduate on time. The most successful students are those who take this on as a personal responsibility. I knew the courses that were required, I knew what prerequisites were needed, I read the entire course catalogue to see what electives might be interesting to take, and I always made it a point to turn in my schedule on the first day of registration and was never closed out of a class or section that I wanted. Personal responsibility.</p>

<p>The public funding issue is a concern indeed. With few exceptions, the public funding of state colleges and universities has declined at an alarming rate in recent years. So far the impact on instruction has not been significant because of tuition/fee increases, greater reliance on outside funding sources, and administrative "belt tightening". In our department for instance we have funded two additional endowed faculty chairs, reduced the conference and travel budget by 18%, scholarships have failed to keep pace with tuition increases, reduced university sponsored graduate assistance budget by 9%, have not filled an administrative staff vacancy, and have deferred renovation of our soils and concrete structures labs. All the news is not bad however. During this same time we have added 3 tenure track faculty positions, increased the % of gradute students on the PhD track from about 25% to 36%, increased government/industry research funding by 30% and formed a GIS research group w/i the department.</p>

<p>However the diversity of students at OSU was incredible, school spirit was palpable, and the opportunities were seemingly endless. If given the chance to relive those 5 years, I would not change a thing.</p>

<p>I live very close to OSU, so it's nice to hear someone finally give it the respect it deserves on these boards.</p>

<p>I am a big believer in public education. When I taught before having kids I taught in the public school system and in a private school system and found the public system far superior.
Regardless I dont believe that you can get a better education at a small private school than you can at a large university. Just dont believe it.
You get back what you put into it. The large universities offer much in terms of opportunities and a wide range of experiences and attract quality teachers. I think folks who send their kids to private schools thinking they are getting more are kidding themselves.</p>


<p>does your philosophy tranlate to high school or primart grades, as well?</p>

<p>It depends on the different school system. Where I live the public school system is excellent. But that may not be the case everywhere.
I taught at a well respected, well known private school for two years. Then switched to public. The public was far superior. Greater financial support, more resources, better teachers (better salaries) just overall no comparison.</p>