For-Profit Versus Public Universities

Choosing to attend which college is hard enough. Between location, money, friends, degree programs and campus life, things can start to get a little complicated when it comes down to making a decision. When the option of a private university versus a public college is thrown into the mix, it can create an even greater whirlwind of dilemmas.

Both public and private universities offer students different incentives, which can make the decision making process very difficult.

At most private universities the class sizes are smaller, creating a more personal learning environment between the student and the professor.

Ashley Oliver, a Fresno State psychology graduate and a current Fresno Pacific student earning her master’s degree said that, "at private universities the professors want to really know you, even the administration. You’re not just another face in the crowd."

The Fresno State campus website states the student-to-faculty ratio is 25-to-1. The Fresno Pacific University website affirms thst its student to faculty ratio is nearly half at 14-to-1.

Oliver also added that one great thing about private universities is that parking is always available.

Even though private universities may be able to offer students more attention, it doesn’t come cheap.

The website states for in-state students the average cost for one year at a public, four-year college is $7,605, while a private four-year college is approximately $27,293.

Undercover testing in 2010 by the United States Government Accountability Office, known as GAO, specified that a certificate for a computer-aided drafting in California will cost students $520. The same certificate will cost students $13,945 at a private institution.

There is a large gap between prices for certificates, associate’s and bachelor’s degrees among private and public universities.

The popular Public Broadcasting Services documentary Frontline uncovered that private institutions “enroll 10 percent of all post-secondary students. For-profit schools receive almost a quarter of federal financial aid.” The documentary also stated that in 2009, “44 percent of the students who defaulted within three years of graduation were from for-profit schools.” posted that “CEOs of for-profit colleges receive up to 26 times the amount of pay that the heads of traditional universities do.”

The Frontline documentary, College, Inc. also stated “private colleges’ add costs rival those of multi-national brands.” In most cases, the documentary also added that most private schools spend more money on advertising to bring students in than on the actual education.

“Once the money goes into private schools, it’s not just going to the education or to the books,” Fresno State computer science major Nick Acosta said.

The movie continued on to say that in 2008, The University of Phoenix actually spent $130 million on advertising.

Even with such a high tuition price, many private colleges have succeeded in bringing students in by offering benefits such as a fast degree process.

GAO found that of 15 private institutions, “four colleges encouraged fraudulent practices and all 15 made deceptive or otherwise questionable statements to GAO’s undercover applicants.”

These practices ranged from encouraging students to lie on their financial aid application to “exaggerating potential wages after graduation.”

Tiffany Collins decided to attend Fresno Pacific University because she “wanted to have a speedy education and be able to enjoy fast-paced classes.”

At most private colleges, students are often guaranteed the classes they want and need, and as long as they stay on track and get decent grades, all four years of college are mapped out for them and their graduation date given early on.

At public colleges it can be harder to find required classes, possibly because they are either full or have been cancelled due to the lack of funding.

“At Fresno Pacific I was given my graduation date in the beginning,” Collins said. “All I had to do was finish my classes with good grades.”

Classes are sometimes quicker at private colleges because they offer courses that are only six weeks long.

“I liked the shorter classes because there was no messing around,” Collins said. “You just go on your first day, write a few papers, read for a few weeks and you’re done.”

Sara Jansma, a fourth-year student at Vanguard University of Southern California majoring in religion, with an emphasis in Christian formation and discipleship, decided to attend a private school because of the unique degree options offered.

“For me, a pro is faith integrated learning,” Jansma said. “Most of my professors have a Christian worldview, and this is refreshing to me, and is especially helpful with what I’m studying.”

For Jansma, there aren’t very many cons to a private college.

“Some students feel like Vanguard babies us, and that we are unable to experience the real world because of the rules we have to follow,” Jansma said. “In my opinion, these rules are not cons.”
For Jansma, Vanguard University has always been the right place.

“I was first interested in Vanguard because it was a private Christian university, and this fit my criteria for the college I wanted to go to,” Jansma said. “I liked that it is affiliated with the Assemblies of God, which is the denomination that I grew up in.”

Only the student can put a price tag on their education. Just as product consumers, students are pulled one way and then the other back and forth until the right college has intrigued them, either from their advertising or from what the college actually has to offer.


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