Choosing Public versus Private

Attending a private university, like USD, allows students to have more one-on-one time with professors in the classroom.

Taryn Beaufort | Opinion Editor | The USD Vista

Private versus public, that is the question. When students apply to colleges during their senior year of high school, they may not consider or know the major differences between the two. Private universities have traditionally been associated with more prestige and a smaller population. On the contrary, public universities are generally known to have bigger populations and thus a heightened energy  to the environment.

There are some common differences between public and private universities. Public universities are funded by state governments, generally have lower tuition fees, are demographically diverse, and have larger class sizes. On the other hand, private universities are just the opposite. They aren’t funded by state governments, generally have a higher tuition, are more geographically diverse, and have smaller class sizes accompanied with a smaller student-to-professor ratio.

For some Toreros there is a strong link between where they went to high school and their college choices, but not all.

Senior Daniel Gonzales has attended both private and public schools. He attended a private school from preschool to middle school, and then later transferred to a public high school. While choosing which college to attend, Gonzales’ previous private school history played a minor role in his choice.

“I liked the smaller classroom setting from my private school, so I kept that in the back of my mind,” Gonzales said. “In the moment I did not really think about what type of school I wanted to attend, but after four years [of attending USD] I am really happy I ended up here. I have friends that go to public schools and I could not do a 500-person class like they have, because knowing me I would just skip.”

Toward the end of high school, Gonzales thought he didn’t have much of a preference where he continued his education and did not always plan on attending a private university.

“I leaned into whatever got me in,” Gonzales said. “I had no preference, I was just straight applying to everything. I got denied by all the UCs, so it was very easy to say no to the public schools because they said no to me. I did not start to care until later.”

After attending a private university for the past three years, Gonzales has come to appreciate the benefits of the more intimate atmosphere.

“I think at private [universities] you get a lot of personal interaction with professors,” Gonzales said. “I think it is really valuable and I think that building those networking relationships now [that] they can be taken throughout and post-college.”

Some students at USD may not think anything out of the ordinary when it comes to professors’ open office hours and approachable personalities, but not all universities share this same experience.

“I know my friends [who attend public universities] say it’s a lot harder to be personal with professors and schedule office hours,” Gonzales said. “It’s still there, but you need to be a lot more attentive and dedicated because it’s harder to find that at a public university.”

However, attending a religious, private high school influenced senior Martin Cazarez’s decision to attend a private university like USD.

“I wanted to go to a private school the most and it honestly has everything to do with me going to a private high school,” Cazarez said. “They are way nicer and everything is smaller, I just preferred that. I felt like UC campuses were too widespread and everything felt like its own city.”

Cazarez’s family also had a preference for the type of college he should attend.

“My family was more inclined to pay for me to go to a private school,” Cazarez said. “Given my experience with private schools in the past, they thought it would offer similar benefits. They thought it would offer more one-on-one education opposed to like 600 people being in one classroom.”

The quality of professors and the amount of time they dedicate to students outside of the classroom were very important factors for Cazarez. He shared that he was fortunate enough to find these kinds of professors at USD.

“I think the major difference between us and a public school would probably be population,” Cazarez said. “With a bigger population comes bigger class sizes and those are usually taught by TAs [teachering assistants]. Whereas here, I have never dealt with a TA and I have the option to personally get to know all of my professors.”

Being educated in the private school system his entire life, Cazarez has had little experience attending public schools.

“I’m very biased, I guess you could say,” Cazarez said. “I really don’t know much of the differences between private and public colleges, because I never really experienced that.”

Senior Michael Callaci, however, attended only public schools before coming to USD.

“I came from a very big public high school in Chicago,” Callaci said. “We probably had about 50 kids per class, so that was lot. And my graduating class was about 1,100 students.”

Attending a large public school influenced the type of college Callaci wanted to attend.

“I definitely wanted a smaller school with smaller class sizes,” Callaci said. “And most of those ended up being private, so that was a main decider for me.”

Regardless of each student’s background, it still led them to attend USD. Toreros may be biased toward a private university, but that is not to say the alternative cannot be an option as well. Each type of school has something different to offer, but it is ultimately up to the students to find what will be the right fit for them.