Last week’s blog spoke to the differences between colleges and universities. This week’s blog will focus on the difference between public and independent (private) colleges.
Public and independent schools differ greatly in their funding sources. Expenses at independent (private) colleges are usually covered mostly by private sources including tuition charges, donations and interest on a school’s endowment. Public colleges are generally subsidized by tax revenues, allowing them to offer substantially lower tuition costs than independent colleges.
Because state governments often subsidize public colleges, many of them charge higher tuition for out-of-state students.
To help offset the cost of higher tuition, most independent colleges offer financial aid beyond that offered by the federal and state government. Surprisingly, the average debt of student borrowers graduating from state and independent nonprofit four-year colleges and universities was similar – 31% from a four year public college had a debt of $10,00-$19,000 and 27% from a four year private college had the same amount of debt. (The College Board 2009).
Independent colleges also tend to vary more widely in their focus, size and mission. Public colleges typically offer a similarly comprehensive curriculum.
Little differences exist in the aggregate diversity or economic backgrounds between students attending four-year independent colleges and public colleges (U.S. Dept of Education 2007). Nationally, three quarters of students attend public schools.
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