The Benefits of Large Public Colleges
No college is one-size-fits-all, but large public universities try to meet most students' needs by offering a wide range of benefits, such as:
According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2013-2014 school year was $30,094 at private colleges, but only $8,893 for state residents at public colleges. Somewhere in between is tuition for out-of-state residents attending public universities, which averages $22,203.
As mentioned previously, public universities receive a large portion of their operating funds from state and also federal taxes. This subsidy, along with the economies of scale associated with large institutions, allow public universities to set tuition rates that are affordable to the average student. Financial aid, loans and scholarships are also available at public universities. The end result is that public university students tend to graduate with less debt than those who attend private colleges.
Public universities generally offer a wide variety of degree programs, from anthropology to computer science to theater studies. Many have affiliated medical and law schools as well. Students learn from professors who are at the top of their field and are renowned researchers, writers and experts. Academic choices abound at public universities and students have access to many majors, minors and concentrations. This type of environment is especially beneficial for students who are not sure what major they'd like to pursue. At public universities, students can explore a broad range of subjects to find what interests them the most.
Public universities can also offer more choices in the way education is delivered, such as online, in the evening or in the summer. This flexibility makes it easier to work and attend college or to schedule individualized internships, study abroad and travel. Many large public universities offer specialized programs, such as honors program, that permit students to learn in smaller groups from the best professors. They are also more likely to offer dual-degree programs where students can graduate with both a bachelor's and master's degree.
In addition to receiving government funding, public universities collect tuition and benefit from endowments. They tend to receive significant support from individuals and businesses in their region, both alumni and community supporters. The combination of these resources provides these institutions with the financial leverage to build and expand their facilities on an ongoing basis.
Consequently, many of the larger universities in the United States are home to cutting edge research facilities, science labs, teaching hospitals and libraries. Public universities offer significant physical resources, including state-of-the-art dorms, performing arts centers and sports facilities. Student centers, activity facilities and social spaces tend to be numerous, comfortable and inviting.
A broad range of educational options and excellent facilities attract a broad range of students and faculty. Students at large public universities study alongside others with different ideas, opinions, abilities and lifestyles. Students and faculty come from other countries and cultures, creating a unique mix of talent and worldviews that enrich everyone's experience.
Most public universities are also research universities. In fact, the U.S. public university system attracts researchers from all over the world who wish to work with award-winning faculty. Because of their excellent facilities and world-class faculty, public universities tend to be awarded a fair share of available research grant money. This means students have the opportunity to work on cutting-edge research as part of their education.
Many students find they need to work while attending college as a way to supplement their income. Because of their large size, opportunities for student employment abound at public universities. Furthermore, because large schools usually boost the local economy and create jobs, opportunities for off-campus work also tend to be plentiful.
A public university's sports teams tend to play a large part in the school's identity, particularly at NCAA Division I schools. The university community rallies around its teams and students are excited to attend games, pep rallies and homecoming activities. Sports can create a sense of unparalleled camaraderie across the school's community.
State schools generally enjoy excellent reputations with employers. In fact, a Wall Street Journal article reports that "State universities have become the favorite of companies recruiting new hires because their big student populations and focus on teaching practical skills gives the companies more bang for their recruiting buck." As a result, employers are forging deeper relationships with public universities to aid their recruiting efforts.