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Public Vs. Private College: The Bottom Line

“Public Vs. Private College: The Cost” is the first in a three part series examining how choose what type of college to attend. For a full picture of the process, also read part two, “The Experience” and part three, “The Bottom Line”.

by Karis Hustad

Many students would prefer to procrastinate as long as possible, but ultimately that May 1 deadline comes and a decision must be made. When it comes down to the choice between two or three schools, however, the decision can become very difficult.

Students may be torn between cost and experience, location and convenience or a variety of other factors. What many high school seniors do not realize is that there are a host of factors they haven’t even considered, many of which are only realized after actually attending college. It is important to look beyond the obvious and ask some honest questions of the schools being considered.

What To Consider:

The public versus private college debate may not have a single winner, but students and industry experts agree there are certain factors to be considered.

Donna Kelly, partner and owner of College Connectors, emphasized retention rates as a number many overlook, but can provide insight on the freshman experience.

“It is a factor that tends to indicate whether the school has somehow delivered on its promises,” she said. “You came there for some reasons and then if you didn’t have a good experience that may be one of the reasons you didn’t come back.”

But she also pointed out that students should choose a school that will fit over time.

“You need to find a school that doesn’t just fit you as an 18-year-old, but stretches you as a 22-year-old,” she said.

Brandon Tice, a junior political science major at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, said a student’s area of study can also affect which school is the best fit.

“If it feels right but you’re going to end up with $90,000 of debt after four years as an English major…there is more than one college that is the right fit,” he said.

Ultimately, John Manning, of the Minnesota Private College Council, said the debate between public and private schools comes down to a combination of factors that determines the value of education.

“What is the real value of the investment? What is the kind of education you will receive? How will the choice(s) you make help you start a career or continue a career?” he asked. “There is an array of issues to think about when you’re trying to get the value of the investment.”

Want more help deciding? Check out these helpful sites, as well as more information about options in Minnesota:
College Confidential
College Board
College Prowler
Project On Student Debt
University of Minnesota website
Minnesota State College and University website
Minnesota Private College Council website

Karis Hustad is an intern at WCCO.com and a Twin Cities native, studying journalism at Loyola University Chicago. Reach her at khustad@luc.edu.


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