Public vs Private University – picking the school that is right for “you.”

I am a strong supporter and proponent of the public school system. Growing up in Germany, there was no other choice. When I came to America I was first introduced to private education when I attended boarding school. Then, for undergraduate and graduate school I went to private university at Saint Louis University and Webster University.

Why did I not go to a public university?

My reasons were clear – my grandfather used to be the head of the political science department at SLU, and Webster University had four satellite campuses all over the world. This was the a no-brainer. I spent one semester in Vienna and finished school in Saint Louis.

Chinese applicants, however, have a lot of choice and flexibility when it comes to picking the right school – the school that is right for them. America boasts a myriad of excellent universities and colleges (an explanation between the two is forthcoming in another post very soon). Say what you want about our current economic situation and looming sequester, we still have the best higher education system in the world.

There are differences and similarities between public and private universities.

One of the differences is price. Private universities are more expensive and are getting more pricy every year. On average, tuition at private universities increases about 3-4% per year. This does not mean that public universities are not increasing their tuition. They are, but, they start out to be cheaper to begin with. Tuition at Harvard (considered, by US News and World Report’s College Ranking, to be the best university in the country) is about $40,000. Compare that to UC Berkeley (considered the #1 public university in the country) at $11,700 for in-state tuition ($34,000 out of state) one begins to wonder what the attraction is to private universities.

Which brings me to the other difference – prestige or better said “perceived prestige.” I remember on two occasions where a student was accepted into the University of Chicago but the parents decided against it, holding out for their child to be accepted at Harvard. Why? Very simple – recognition and prestige. University of Chicago, a private university, ranked #4 in the country, and, in my opinion, the best overall university in America, is not well known in China. Yet, the education rivals that of the HYP’s – Harvard, Yale, Princeton.

The same holds true for the rest of the best, in what public education has to offer. All of the following — University of Virginia, University of Michigan, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, University of California, Davis, and many more, lack the name recognition in China. The degrees they offer plus the support students receive throughout their education, equals or betters that of the best private schools.

So, is it price vs prestige then? Do we perceive cheaper to be not as good? Expensive to be better? What about name recognition? Do we think that a school with better name recognition recruits better and graduates smarter students? Or did Presidents Obama, a long list of internationally renowned politicians, celebrities, nobel laureates, economists, former Presidents of Northern Ireland and Pakistan, the co-founder of Apple, the executive chairman of Google, just accelerate at the school that was best for them?

Which is my last point – the education is the same. The price and name recognition is not. At EduGate, we try to match each student with the school that is best of them. And, that quite often happens NOT to be the HYP’s of world, but rather the schools who offer excellent programs at a lesser cost and or recognizable name.