General Education

The Pros and Cons of State Universities

The Pros and Cons of State Universities
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Seth Czarnecki August 1, 2014

Knowing the upsides and downsides to attending a state university can help you decide if it's the right place to pursue your degree.

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An issue that every college-bound high school senior faces is whether to attend a public, or state, university or a private college.

Inevitably, each student will have his or her own reasons as to why he or she chooses a particular school. Still, with a lot of misinformation guiding students’ decisions about state colleges, it’s important to sort through it all.

Below you’ll find the upsides and downsides of attending a public university. This way, when decision time draws near, you’ll have the information you need to make an educated choice.

The Upsides

1. Cost

What makes a state school considered “public" is the influx of public money, which is a user-friendly euphemism for tax dollars. The cost of attendance at a state university is subsidized by the state in which the school resides.

Private schools, on the other hand, do not receive any money from the state and, thus, have higher tuition rates. According to the 2013-2014 National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) “Annual Survey of Colleges", the average cost of tuition and fees at a public, four-year university was $8,893. At a private university, the cost was upwards of $30,000. If you want to add room and board to the equation, tack on an additional $10,000, respectively.

2. Size

State universities come in all shapes and sizes; however, on average, they tend to serve more students than their private counterparts.

As a result, public schools usually offer a wider range of majors to satisfy the demands of a diverse student body. But what if you want to get away from the people at your high school? Depending on how large your state school is, this may never be an issue. More students mean more options for choosing your friends, as well as more of an ability to avoid the ones you want to.

3. On-Campus Culture

Large state universities tend to have a vibrant, bustling, diverse student culture. Whether the university is located in a college town or an urban landscape, larger universities tend to have more going on more often. These types of schools offer a lot in the way of student activities, social clubs, and student-employment opportunities.

The Downsides

1. Size

Attending a large state school can be a double-edged sword. While size can have its benefits, it can also cause some students to feel lost or ill at ease. Also, since public universities need to accommodate more students, classes tend to be larger than those at private schools — sometimes over 200 students for an introductory class.

2. Red Tape

If the university makes a mistake on your student loan information or puts a hold on your account, it may be more difficult to get in touch with the people you need than at a smaller university. This can become an annoyance for sure, especially if you’re on a timeline.

3. Access to Professors

Some of the most meaningful learning experiences one can have come from meeting with a professor one-on-one. However, when he’s teaching a class of over 100, it may be harder to reach him.

Making a Decision

Choosing a college is one of the biggest decisions you can make. The results—a degree, lifelong memories, and perhaps some debt — will last well beyond graduation day. So, it’s important to consider all of your options, not simply the ones that are fashionable or that have a big name. Think about making a list of what’s truly important to you and visit the schools you’re interested in. See if the college measures up to your standards. If it doesn’t, there are plenty more that will.


Trends in College Pricing 2013. (2013, January 1). The College Board. Retrieved August 1, 2014, from National Center of Education Statistics