Types of Universities

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Public vs. Private

Public universities are founded and subsidized by state governments while private universities are funded by endowments (large donations from individuals). Many private universities have their funding tied up in the stock market. Public universities have lower costs for residents of that state, while those from other states or another country have to pay more (nonetheless, out-of-state fees are often much lower than private institution costs). However, it is less common for public institutions to offer scholarships to international students.

Private institutions are funded by a combination of tuition fees, endowments, research grants, and alumni gifts. Private education is usually more costly than public institutions; however, because state institutions usually cannot give financial aid to international students, sometimes a private institution can end up being less expensive due to merit scholarship packages to international students.

Colleges vs. Universities

  • Colleges are usually smaller while universities tend to be bigger (but there are exceptions to this!)
  • Colleges usually offer only Bachelor’s degrees
  • Universities offer Bachelor’s degrees, Master’s degrees and Doctorate degrees
  • Universities are more research-focused institutions, with graduate students conducting most of the research. 
  • In colleges, professors are usually more focused on their undergraduate students. Research opportunites are only available to undergraduate students. 

Liberal Arts and Sciences

U.S. undergraduate education is based on a philosophy of providing a well-rounded academic education that focuses on developing students’ ability to learn, think critically and write. In their first year students may take a wide range of classes in the arts, humanities, languages, and the social and physical sciences. This provides a strong base for any field in which a student may want to work. Students can then focus their studies during school in the form of a major (taking roughly half of their classes in this subject) and afterwards in the form of a master's degree.