Private vs. Public Schools

Learn about the cost differences between public and private schools and how loans can put them within reach

Media coverage about the exploding costs of post-secondary education tends to focus on the eye-popping expense of top-tier institutions, such as those in the Ivy League. This can induce sticker shock in most parents.

But it also creates a misleading picture, for at least two reasons:

  • Most students end up attending colleges or universities that are considerably more affordable. According to statistics compiled by the College Board, more than 53% of students attend four-year schools whose annual tuition and fees are below $9,000.
  • Many people are unaware of private college loans which put private education within reach for a wide range of students.

Reasons for the confusion about private vs. public school tuition

Traditionally private schools have been perceived to be more expensive than public schools, but if you really look at the numbers that is not always true. Public schools are less expensive because the costs are already being subsidized by the state. Private schools are more expensive by sticker price, however, generally speaking, private schools usually have more institutional aid to give out, so the actual cost to the student may end up being less at a private versus a public school.

Make sure to consider the entire picture when evaluating public and private institutions. One important factor to consider is the length of enrollment. Although attending a private school looks to be more expensive, often you are guaranteed to graduate in four years.

Also, it is important to evaluate other considerations, like the quality of education that you're paying for. Especially if your student needs more attention, private schools tend to offer smaller classes, along with more one-on-one attention and a more intimate campus experience. On the other hand, public schools typically offer more resources to students, like a larger variety of classes to choose from.

Private college loans allow your child the freedom of choice

At the same time, relatively few students pay the full list price of school, since even more students at private universities receive financial aid than at public institutions. Often, because of endowments and other sources of funding, private institutions have more access to aid than public schools. Overall, about two-thirds of students attending four-year institutions do so with the help of some form of financial aid.

The upshot is this: educational finance experts suggest forgetting about the distinctions between public and private tuition costs, at least as you and your child begin the search process, and instead focus on the school or schools that represent the best fit for the student.

Knowing more about private college student loans could give your child the opportunity to attend the school of their choice

If you had ruled out a private college as too expensive, it still may be a possibility with private school loans. Learn about our Citizens Bank TruFit Student Loan®, a private college loan. Access more information about financing your child's education on our Student Services page. If you still have questions, call a student loan specialist at 1-800-708-6684, and we'll help walk you through your options.

Additional student loan and college planning resources

Choosing the Right Student Loans
How Much Should I Borrow?
Direct vs. Indirect Costs of College
Understanding In-State Versus Out-of-State Tuition
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Banking For Students
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