4 Smart Reasons to Choose a Private College

When researching colleges and universities, you’ll find plenty of differences in location, or programs offered, or internship opportunities, or study abroad programs. But you’ll also come across the terms "public" and "private" when reading about each higher education institution. So what’s the difference, and what does that mean for you?

1. Private Colleges Can Be More Affordable

Cost is a huge factor in choosing a school. Public colleges are funded by state governments, while private colleges are funded by tuition and endowments. This does mean that private colleges can have a higher price tag than public colleges – but that doesn’t mean that private schools can’t have competitive, or even more affordable, tuition rates after applying financial aid.

"While students can use federal aid at both public and private schools, schools like JWU typically have more funds available in the form of scholarships and grants," explains JWU Admissions Representative Rachel Kern '17, '18 MBA, who in addition to earning three degrees (associate in Culinary Arts, bachelor’s in Business Administration & Management and an MBA) from JWU herself has spent years fielding questions for JWU students and their families out of her Colorado territory. "This can sometimes make a private education just as affordable as a public institution (and sometimes cheaper)," says Kern.

Dean Jason Evans of JWU’s College of Food Innovation & Technology (CFIT) had chaired the State University of New York (SUNY) Cobleskill Agricultural & Food Management department before coming to JWU and is familiar with the differences between public and private higher education. He, too, feels that a private higher education could be just as affordable, if not more so, than a public higher education. "Private universities have more latitude in establishing need- or merit-based discounts/scholarships," Dean Evans states.

image of a man and a woman discussing paperwork next to a laptop computer

ABOVE: TALK TO YOUR FINANCIAL PLANNER ABOUT HOW JWU SCHOLARSHIPS AND GRANTS CAN HELP FUND YOUR EDUCATION.

JWU's list of scholarships and grants includes multiple options to help students afford college. If you're in an undergraduate student organization such as DECA or SkillsUSA, consider joining JWU's National Student Organizations, which can provide funding up to full tuition for students who continue participating in their national organization after entering JWU.

2. Private Colleges Can Think Big, Yet Teach Small

Dean Jason Evans also believes that private colleges can offer more than public colleges when it comes to student learning. "Often, private universities have more flexibility in how they partner with industry and other external stakeholders, more easily facilitating timely and novel opportunities for student learning, academic programming and career pathways," says Evans. JWU students have access to internship opportunities at more than 1,000 sites to give them real-world experience and put their foot in a door of companies who have shown interest in hiring JWU graduates. JWU even owns and operates DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Charlotte right on campus for JWU Charlotte hospitality students to hone their craft.

Rachel Kern lists another way that private colleges can offer more beneficial student learning opportunities: smaller class sizes that allow for more individualized attention from professors, whereas public colleges tend to have higher student to instructor ratios.

"At JWU, the average class size is 19 students," says Kern. "That means that students aren’t just a student at JWU, they are a valuable member of our small community."

In addition to small class sizes, JWU students have plenty of activities, including more than 100 student clubs and organizations and both men's, women's and unisex sports teams, as well as constant events to help students meet and get to know each other. Walk around Uptown in Charlotte or Downcity in Providence and you're sure to see JWU students greeting each other as friends, proudly sporting the university logo!

a group of JWU Providence students smile for a photo by a field of sunflowers in front of the city skyline

ABOVE: AFTER PROVIDENCE'S PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE OPENED IN 2019, JWU STUDENTS FLOCKED TO EXPLORE LOCAL SIGHTS, INCLUDING THE "10,000 SUNS" INSTALLATION OF SUNFLOWERS.

3. Private Colleges Have Diverse Student Bodies

When a public college is funded by the state it operates in, it usually only offers a subsidized tuition rate to residents of that state or residents of nearby states (often within a set radius) while charging students from other states or countries a much higher race. Private colleges can offer the same flat rate to all students who apply, which has a benefit: increased campus diversity.

"Since JWU charges the same tuition to every student regardless of where they live (whether they’re in-state or out-of-state), this encourages students to come from all over the country or world," says Kerns. "That means the geographic diversity of our private college is much different than that of a public school, where things are more demographically diverse due to affordability."

That diversity has led to hundreds of students from 62 countries enrolling at JWU, so you're less likely to find yourself having the same classmates in college as in elementary school and can expand your horizons. According to JWU's university fact sheet, our top 10 international student populations represent People’s Republic of China, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan ROC, Indonesia, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Canada and Vietnam. In addition, JWU ranks nationally as the 26th overall master’s institution for expanding horizons through one of JWU's 90 study abroad and exchange programs in 47 countries, allowing students to make the world their classroom.

a group of JWU Hospitality Familiarization (FAM) Tour pausing for a photo on their 2019 trip to Ecuador

ABOVE: A GROUP OF JWU STUDENTS ON A 2019 HOSPITALITY FAMILIARIZATION (FAM) TOUR TO ECUADOR POSE FOR AN AIRPORT PHOTO.

4. Private Colleges Can Attract the Best Faculty

One final difference to pay attention to is the quality of faculty. JWU prides itself on hiring faculty with industry knowledge who have both firsthand insight into their fields as well as industry connections to help students network and place in internships that will help them succeed.

"This is not to say that public education is bad, but JWU has the luxury of being able to retain distinguished faculty that a public college may not be able to afford," Kern says. "The result is that our graduates are more desirable in the workforce."

With field experience and connections, JWU faculty can better support student success. In addition to its core faculty, JWU also hosts a high-profile speaker series called Visiting Industry Professional (VIP) to expand student engagement through a more interdisciplinary approach to invited guests on campus and mentorships. And JWU faculty are making waves every day in their fields! JWU Associate Professor of Engineering & Design Jonathan Harris improved his greater community in May 2021 when his team won a design competition to reuse the Crook Point Bascule Bridge in Providence, while JWU College of Health & Wellness Associate Professor Samantha Rosenthal will help advance the wellness of young adults thanks to a $300,000 grant she won from the National Institute of Health in August 2021 to study the relationship between screen time and depressive symptoms among college students.

Professor Drury and a student work on a design together in a JWU classroom

ABOVE: JEFF DRURY (RIGHT), AN ASSISTANT PROFESSOR AT JWU'S PROVIDENCE CAMPUS, APPLIES HIS PAST EXPERIENCE AS A SENIOR DIGITAL EXPERIENCE DESIGNER AT THE BUSINESS INNOVATION FACTORY TOWARD HELPING JWU STUDENTS WITH FRONT-END DEVELOPMENT, UX DESIGN, MOTION GRAPHICS, VIDEO PRODUCTION AND IMAGING FOR DIGITAL MEDIA. 

As you search for the best fit for you, think about which college can offer a competitive financial aid package; a diverse student body to call your classmates, teammates and friends; attract and retain quality faculty members to share their knowledge with you; and support student academic and employment success. Also keep in mind whether private colleges are for-profit or nonprofit, as for-profit colleges are run more like businesses while nonprofit private colleges like JWU focus entirely on providing students with a quality education. You'll want an educational experience that's as invested in you as you are in it.

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