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What are the Pros and Cons of Public Higher Education?

Felicia Dye
Felicia Dye

Cheaper tuition is one of the most important benefits of public higher education for many students. Others benefit from the wide range of programs that are featured by these schools to help those with limited income or who must balance work and studying. There are some aspects of public higher education that may be less attractive to prospective students, such as higher campus populations and less staff attention.

Cost is one of the primary factors of concern when people consider continuing their education. Private institutions are often eliminated as an option because they are too expensive. Public higher education institutions, however, are widely regarded as being substantially cheaper and therefore more accessible, especially if a student attends a local facility.

Public higher education provides more options for lower income individuals to earn a degree.
Public higher education provides more options for lower income individuals to earn a degree.

Private facilities tend to have a higher concentration of upper-income students. As such, many of those students are not concerned with financial obligations or working. Another benefit of public higher education institutions is that they have more programs in place to accommodate their money-conscious student base. For example, there are often more class schedules to offer flexibility to working students, and there are commonly larger work-study programs.

Community colleges are increasingly developing transfer programs. These allow students to complete the first half of four-year programs at a community college and then transfer to a university to complete the remainder of their studies. This is supposed to result in drastic savings for the student. Public higher education facilities are often more apt to participate in such programs than private schools.

There are some aspects of attending a public higher education facility that may be less attractive. For example, because these facilities are more affordable, they usually have more students. People who desire significant amounts of interaction with their professors may find it difficult to get the individualized attention that they need. Another problem with a larger crowd is that the more desirable classes and class times tend to fill quickly.

Having a larger student body at a public higher education facility also means that personnel other than professors have larger workloads too. It has been noted that this commonly has a negative impact on the admissions and counseling processes. Administrative staff members tend to have less time per student to provide advice and to correct errors on forms that can affect acceptance or financial affairs.

There is some debate over whether students get a better education at private schools. It is probably most fair to say that it depends on the institutions that are being compared. There are, however, many great public higher education institutions. Unfortunately, even when this is the case, they often do not get the recognition or develop the reputation of private schools.

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Discussion Comments


"Cheaper" is a relative term, these days. Cheaper as opposed to what? All higher education is fiendishly expensive nowadays.

However, most public colleges and universities are good schools, and a good education is available for students who want one.

Private schools may offer more esoteric degree programs, and this may be attractive to some students.

However, one advantage of public schools is a more intangible one. While private schools may offer a diverse student body, a public school usually enrolls students of every race, culture, creed and income level. There is something useful about being around many different kinds of people, some of whom may not be interested in an education at all. How do you deal with these people? These are valuable lessons, since most of us will be seeing these people all our lives.

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    • Public higher education provides more options for lower income individuals to earn a degree.
      By: michaeljung
      Public higher education provides more options for lower income individuals to earn a degree.