By Lilith Martirosyan
For any high school student, picking a college to attend after graduation is one of the most important decisions they’ll make. Students narrow down their choices based on factors like their family income, school requirements and their major of choice. This results in a mix of both private and public schools that fit their character and academic goals.
I was lucky enough to attend both public and private schools, so when the dreaded college application season began, I knew what I wanted out of my college experience. I wanted a clean campus, a friendly atmosphere, a strong business program, and, above all, something affordable.
After weeks of intense research, I narrowed down my choices to Pepperdine University and UC Irvine. By comparing cost of attendance, business programs and social scene, it became clear that attending a public university proved to be more advantageous than a private school.
For me, public universities seemed to have more opportunity for my personal growth. Campuses were diverse because of lower cost of attendance, attracting a student body from around the world. There was a larger variety of courses and clubs to choose from, and more on-campus job possibilities to nurture social skills and work experience. Coming from a public high school, large class sizes were nothing new, and finding my own classes only promoted exploring different fields.
Furthermore, enrollment and acceptance into certain programs at public universities were less competitive than those at private institutions. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that during 2013, the total US enrollment numbers were 8.1 million for public universities, 3.9 million for private non-profit colleges and 1.3 million for private for-profit colleges.
This is not to say that public education is perfect. Private universities offered several academic advantages. Class sizes were substantially smaller, enabling students to get easy access and individual attention from professors. In addition, lower student enrollment allowed campuses to create close-knit communities and prevent a real-life Hunger Games during class selection periods. With stable funding from higher tuition, students are exposed to new and expensive equipment within classrooms and renovated buildings.
While private school did provide some tempting accommodations, I questioned my ability to compete. The selection process would be more competitive and the course workload would limit the already few hours I’d have to sleep. If I began to second guess my decision on attending a private school in the middle of the year, transferring my credits would be incredibly difficult.
Private colleges have different credit transferring methods that may prevent students from carrying over credits and force them to retake classes. Assuming I had enough confidence in my abilities to bear with these uncertainties, how would I pay for the next four years? The average cost of tuition, room, and board for in-state students during 2013-14 totaled to $36,589 at a private university compared to $18,110 at a public. This massive difference in costs encouraged the use of student loans, but if you’re like me, you’ll try very hard to avoid them as much as possible.
Public education seemed like the better option all around- financially, socially and mentally. By spring, I had succeeded in choosing UCI as my ideal college. Choosing to attend a public institution does not compromise a student’s academic performance. It allows students to identify problems, create solutions and rely on themselves rather than seek an instructor’s guidance. Public education provides the knowledge needed to produce independent thinkers capable of succeeding in various professions.
Lilith Martirosyan is a first-year Business Administration major. She can be reached at email@example.com.