Public vs Private Universities: What’s the Difference?

With an ongoing debate about public vs. private universities, the blog addresses the definitions of public and private universities, their differences, similarities, top universities, and much more.


Did you know that there are approximately 28,000 public universities worldwide in which students from around the world are enrolled? Even though the debate about public vs. private universities has been going on for ages, this blog aims to eradicate your confusion!


We have all the relevant information in a structured manner that will help you make better career decisions. So, let’s clear all your doubts together and get started with the blog! 

What is a Public University?

A public university, sometimes referred to as a state university, is a higher education organisation for which the government provides the majority of the funding. In order to understand the discourse around public versus private universities, it is important to note that the former boasts vast campuses and offers academic resources to thousands of students. Many public universities will have a substantial local student body because of in-state tuition.




Because these universities must admit a certain percentage of students from their state to retain funding, fewer spots are available for out-of-state or foreign students. Public institutions aim to guarantee that education is inexpensive and available to a larger audience despite typically having a higher student population. 


List of Top Public Universities

Public universities are renowned for their reasonable or inexpensive tuition fees and outstanding educational standards, whether in the United States, the United Kingdom, or another country. You can further understand more about private and public universities through the following list:

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What is a Private University?

Since private universities are not subsidised by the government, they can be for-profit or non-profit. Private colleges, on the other hand, depend on a variety of funding sources outside of the state government. In addition, several of them oversee investment portfolios to make money and get donations from foundations, businesses, alumni, and other individual contributors. 


When deciding between private and public universities, keep in mind that private universities are typically smaller than public universities because of limited funding sources, resulting in fewer students and smaller class sizes. Given that they offer in-state tuition, they attract students from all over the country. Some private universities might also provide additional chances for students who want to participate in sports or the arts because there aren’t as many students fighting for the same opportunities.


List of Top Private Universities

Many private university provide top-notch facilities and instruction all throughout the world. The list of colleges below can assist you in narrowing down your options between a private and public institution based on their years of performance and widespread recognition:

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Difference between Public and Private Universities

What differentiates public vs private universities? Which one meets your demands in terms of education? Based on certain definitions, you might have a hazy notion. Comprehending the public versus private university issue may resemble negotiating a crossroads in academia. Because of this, you should consider the following elements to distinguish between public vs private universities.


Funding Sources

The key difference between public vs private universities is the funding source used by each. While private universities receive income from investors, private sources, and student tuition payments, public universities often receive funding from the state government.


Public colleges are supported by grants, federal cash, state appropriations, and money from state taxes, which may help you better comprehend the differences between private and public institutions. On the other hand, endowments, fundraising, and contributions are essential to private colleges.


Tuition Fees and Cost

Regarding the cost of their academic programs and tuition, public vs private universities differ from one another. As you are already aware, public colleges are generally less expensive and can be supported by part-time student internships; this is true globally. Due to their low tuition costs, public colleges may be difficult for applicants to get into due to their high admission standards and competitive environment. One thing to consider when comparing private and public universities is this. 


Conversely, admission requirements are looser at private colleges, and tuition is higher. Occasionally, government schools charge more, even if governments and bureaucratic programs support them. Other private schools, on the other hand, charge a decent price that takes into account the student’s ability and chances of success. 



In the argument between public vs private universities, scholarship is an essential factor. More need-based scholarships supported by federal and state funds are available at public universities. On the other hand, private institutions provide more merit-based scholarships to draw in students who have excelled academically and participate in extracurricular activities. 


With a large candidate pool, the scholarship selection procedure is especially important for private universities. However, given their emphasis on drawing in top-notch students, private universities may have a less tough scholarship selection process. 



State or federal governments often accredit the argument over public vs private universities and can be connected at the regional level. Private universities need to get national government accreditation, which comes from the university commission or an agency under the federal government at the federal level. 


In the event that this accreditation is not obtained, the government’s authority to grant degrees and instruct students may be withdrawn. Therefore, when choosing between public and private institutions, it is imperative to confirm whether the university you selected has the necessary government accreditation.


Also, read : IIT vs MIT


Availability of Majors and Specialisations

Another significant difference between public vs private universities is the selection of major or specialisation courses. While private colleges may be specialised educational establishments providing specialised study or a restricted range of majors, public universities offer a wide variety of majors and degrees for their study programs. 


Certain private universities have entrance tests for their specialisation courses. You might gain entry by utilising the top study planning applications for students. You can select between a public and private university based on the mission and principles of the private institutions as well as the size of their student body. 



The path to higher education can seem like a maze, particularly if you’re still unsure about public vs private universities. Public universities use standardised tests like the SAT and ACT, and applicants must fulfil certain minimal standards. In order to study more effectively rather than more diligently for your exams, you can adopt a few study strategies from our experts. 


Conversely, it has been found that private institutions have more stringent requirements when it comes to qualifying and the selection process. They also have a more limited quantity of seats. One important way that public universities differ from private universities in terms of admission requirements is this.


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Private vs Public College: Similarities

Now that you know the main difference between public vs private universities, let’s also look at their commonalities. Contrary to popular belief, public and private universities are more alike. Speaking generally, the main points of similarity between public and private colleges are that they both provide a large selection of courses in many subjects, have comparable admissions procedures (such as merit-based or exam-focused), and must be associated with an accredited education board.


Aside from sharing comparable admissions requirements and scholarship programs, you may find many private universities that are fairly comparable to public universities in terms of their growth into schools and other institutes.

Public vs Private Universities: Comparison

In the long-running discussion about private vs public universities, it is critical to consider your academic path. Getting the answers will enable you to make a confident and well-informed conclusion. The comparative comparison between public and private universities is as follows: 


Programs Offering

Comparatively speaking, private universities—particularly liberal arts colleges—have fewer academic majors than public universities in certain subject areas. However, private universities that provide concentrated study in one field can be beneficial for students who are already certain of their academic interests. 


Public universities can offer more degree options since they frequently enrol a larger student body. Purdue University in Indiana provides over 200 majors covering nearly all degree categories. For students who are unsure whether they want to go to college or are having trouble deciding on a major, public universities tend to provide a wider selection of majors and minors.


Research Opportunities

Public university that receive government support can also provide a variety of labs and research facilities, which facilitates students’ access to the supplies they need to complete all of their research. The University of California, Los Angeles, which is home to hundreds of research labs and institutions, is one such example. Public colleges offer the greatest prospects for students who are committed to their studies and use the resources for academic research. 


Conversely, many private universities offer less room for research and fewer resources for students. However, there are a few notable exceptions, such as John Hopkins University and Cornell University, both of which have billion-dollar yearly budgets. While there are many private research institutions, some smaller ones are unable to keep up with the level of research. In order to wrap up the discussion of public versus private colleges, consider the research opportunities available to you. 


Campus Size and Culture

While some people are motivated by the most stunning university campuses in the US, UK, or the world, there is more to knowing the difference between private and public institutions. Campus size may be an important consideration when choosing the ideal institution since some people thrive in an active atmosphere, while others prefer a calm, cosy, and manageable setting. The purpose of expanding campuses at many public universities is to house a greater student body. 


The private university still preserves a more personal, smaller campus and takes great pleasure in its distinctiveness. Everything depends on the student’s preferences and the environments in which they feel comfortable studying and using their abilities. Before choosing between private and public institutions, consider the student body. 


Scholastic and Acceptance Rate

Most private universities have stringent admissions and academic standards, particularly Ivy League colleges and universities in the USA, like Columbia, Brown, Harvard, and so on. Before applying, a student must meet all requirements, and once accepted, they must continue to meet high academic standards. Therefore, public universities have more relaxed admission criteria and fewer requirements than private colleges.


When deciding between public vs private universities, you should take the institution’ individualised attention into account. Additionally, private colleges provide distinctive academic possibilities, whereas public universities prioritise community involvement and public service. Naturally, acceptance rates for private institutions are lower than those of public universities. 


Financial Aid

Students attending both public and private institutions are eligible for federal financial help. Nevertheless, in contrast to public colleges, private universities normally have more money available to distribute as grants and scholarships and frequently provide higher tuition discounts due to their sizeable endowment holdings. 


For the recent academic year, private colleges provided undergraduate students with an average tuition savings of 48%, according to the NACUBO. In summary, private universities are generally more expensive than public colleges, even while financial assistance programs and tuition reductions can make a private university less expensive than a public one. One of the key elements in determining the outcomes of the public vs private university argument is financial assistance.


Also, read : L1 Visa vs H1B Visa

Public vs Private Universities: Which is Better?

When deciding between public vs private universities, a number of factors should be taken into account. This section lists a number of factors that individually highlight the main distinctions between the two kinds of institutions. It will assist in giving a general overview of how to select a suitable university type that satisfies all of a prospective student’s criteria.


Educational Costs

Public colleges have lower tuition costs, but admission to these institutions can be competitive because of intense competition. Conversely, private colleges have more expensive tuition but more lenient admissions standards. While some private schools charge a reasonable amount considering the calibre of the student and their likelihood of success, government-funded schools may charge outrageous fees despite being sponsored by state and bureaucratic efforts.


Campus Size and Culture

Campus size can be a major factor in selecting the right university because some people do best in a bustling, noisy environment, while others prefer a calm, cosy setting that isn’t oppressive. Many public institutions have larger campuses in order to serve large enrollments of students. Private schools maintain a smaller, more exclusive campus while taking pleasure in their diversity. It is up to the student to decide what kind of atmosphere works best for them to learn in and to make the most of their strengths.


Scholastics and Acceptance Rate

The majority of private institutions have strict admissions and academic policies, especially if they are Ivy League schools. To be admitted, a prospective student must fulfil all qualifying requirements and uphold the high standards of scholarship. Compared to private institutions, public universities have more flexible entrance criteria and fewer restrictions.


To conclude, we have highlighted every possible differentiation and similarity, as well as the list of top public and private universities that will help you make a wise and informed decision. It is apparent that there has been a long debate about public vs private universities and which one is better. Although both have pros and cons, the most important thing to consider is the value that either of the universities will add to your life. Public universities are designed to be available and accessible to every individual, whereas private universities cater to a specific group.


If you want to know more about public vs private universities or want to study abroad, we encourage you to speak with our team of expert counsellors at Meridean Overseas Education Consultants (MOEC). Our counsellors will provide you with guidance throughout your study abroad. Get help with the application process, SOPs, and filing for a visa. Visit us and get one-to-one counselling, or avail yourself of free video counselling via our website. We will be happy to help you, so please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected] or 1800-1230-00011.


Question. Is the private university better than the public university?

In contrast to private universities, which are supported and governed by contributions, the government manages and funds public universities. However, the choice between private and public institutions is based on your educational goals and the cost of attendance.


Question. Does the private university get funding?

The discussion of funding at universities, whether public or private, is common. Yes, private colleges receive money, but not nearly as much as public universities since investors and student fees support the government and private organisations that support them.


Question. Is the degree from a private university recognised?

Indeed, many private institutions provide degree programs that are accepted by esteemed universities worldwide. 


Question. Is the public university free in the USA?

In the USA, some public universities are less expensive than private ones, and some universities charge no tuition fees.


Question. Is Stanford free for low-income?

At Stanford, many undergraduates receive need-based financial help. Families with assets typical of that income level but earning less than $100,000 are exempt from paying tuition or housing costs. 


Question. Which university is advised to go, public or private?

Around the world, public institutions are more affordable than private ones, making them the preferable choice. It is advisable, therefore, to evaluate each college according to a number of criteria and weigh all available information before accepting an offer.


Question. Why are public universities better than the private universities?

Although public universities have cheaper tuition costs, their admittance rates are low, and they face intense competition.


Question. Why are private universities better than public universities?

Even if their tuition is greater, private universities are a great option for higher education since they provide financial help to deserving students. Private universities manage some of the top universities in the world, including Stanford, Princeton, and Harvard.


Question. Which universities are better, private or public, in the USA?

There are more than 4,000 universities in the United States, and some of the top ones- like Harvard, Yale, UC Berkeley, and Johns Hopkins- are a combination of public and private institutions. Students should choose a college based on their preferences, the cost of tuition, the specifics of the courses, and their prospects for the future.

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