Comparing Types of Colleges: The Pros and Cons of Public Colleges

December 20th, 2011 by rebeccac

advantages-of-public-colleges-ts87815035In the last of our series on comparing colleges, we take a look at the type of institution that makes up the majority of higher education: the public university system. Public schools, or state-funded schools, are institutions that get a large chunk of their financing from state and federal governments, which means that no one can be denied admission because of race, religion, gender or any other kind of discriminatory criteria.

Prospective students of public universities are also encouraged to stay within their state boundaries as they incur much higher tuition by enrolling in a school that’s outside of their home state.

Advantages of Public Colleges
Obviously, the first thing that everyone is going to mention is the cost. In-state public university tuition is, on the whole, considerably cheaper than the majority of private colleges, which can make financial juggling much easier in the long-term and require a smaller student loans in order to balance responsibilities.

On top of that, the sheer size of a public college or university is going to provide a myriad of benefits. The oftentimes expansive campuses offer great access to a variety of facilities, both for educational and social pursuits, and the sheer number of students means that you encounter a lot of diversity and can get involved in a great many activities. This also means that there is big selection when it comes to majors, postgraduate degrees and course offerings. Additionally, public colleges generally have strong backgrounds in cutting-edge research and a large number of faculty members who are active in their fields and who serve as excellent resources.

Disadvantages of Public Colleges
In the same ways that the large campuses and student populations of public universities are a benefit, they also lead to a lot of disadvantages as well. With as many students as are around, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd and feel like you’re only known by your student ID number, especially when you’re sitting in one of the huge lecture halls of a lower-level course. Also, offering as much course variety as they often do is a strain even on expansive faculties, and many times the prerequisite classes are taught not by full professors but by graduate students. Sometimes the grad students do okay; sometimes they don’t.

If you’re someone who wants to develop a strong relationship with your professors and get one-on-one mentoring, that will be more of a struggle at public colleges, where the number of students bumps up the competition and many professors will not have enough office hours in the day to really work with you on subject matter.

As a wrap-up to our series as a whole, we leave you with this note: Only you can make the choice about which college is the best fit for you. We’ve provided the common pros and cons of each in an attempt to give you an overview and assist with your decision-making, but when it comes right down to it, you know your life, your skills and what you need better than anyone else.

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Comparing Types of Colleges: The Pros and Cons of Private Colleges

December 13th, 2011 by rebeccac

private-schools-colleges-ts83742629Higher education is becoming the chief aim of manypeople, both those who are about to graduate and those who are returning to school after raising families, working at careers, or who otherwise want to embark on a new career path. In our attempt to help all students – especially non-traditional ones – assess which type of college is best for their situation, we’ve highlighted for-profit schools, technical schools and community colleges. Now it’s time to take a look at private colleges.

Advantages of Private Schools
The biggest advantage of private universities is that, on the whole, the class sizes are a lot smaller. Unlike sprawling public universities, private schools and colleges often have much smaller student populations, so you’re more likely to have class sizes of 20 people or less, and this gives you the opportunity to develop mentoring relationships with your instructors. Smaller student bodies also mean fewer crowds and a more intimate, on-campus environment.

On the whole, private schools also tend to have strong alumni connections, which gives students an exclusive advantage when it comes to networking with successful graduates. It also benefits the schools as these alumni often contribute regularly, which funds scholarships and grants for incoming students.

Disadvantages of Private Schools
While there are a lot of benefits to the smaller student populations and class sizes at private colleges, it does lend to some disadvantages as well. Oftentimes, because of their smaller size and because they do not have the advantage of state funding, these schools are limited in their graduate and undergraduate offerings. Their number of faculty is more limited, too, so they don’t have the resources to provide as many course offerings.

Private colleges also generally don’t provide as much exposure to diversity as public universities do. Many times they were founded by a particular religious denomination or some other exclusive group that has specific goals and ideals that they favor when it comes time for admissions decisions. This means that you are more likely to be interacting with similar types of people from similar backgrounds.

Obviously, this article bases a lot on generalities, and each school or college has its own criteria, its own unique environment. There is a lot to consider in choosing a university or college to attend, and what’s right for you might not be right for the person next to you. It is a good idea to research the school thoroughly before making your final decision.

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Comparing Types of Colleges: The Pros and Cons of Technical Schools

December 6th, 2011 by rebeccac

technical-schools-and-colleges-ss997931If you just can’t see how taking a gym class or spending your time learning to paint is relevant to your future career, you may be happiest attending a technical school or college. They are career-focused, which means that every course you take is associated with the career that you want to train for. With programs that are generally shorter and more flexible than four-year degrees, technical schools are usually geared toward trades like welding, culinary arts, plumbing, veterinary technician, etc.

Advantages of a Technical School Education
As compared to typical bachelor degrees, a certificate or diploma from a technical college can be earned in far less time. Typically, technical college programs are nine months to two years in length. Since you only take courses that are relevant to your chosen career, the cost of your education can sometimes than it would be attending a four-year liberal arts college. The career training that you receive in a technical college tends to be very hands-on, often taking place in a setting very similar to what you would see in the workplace. That means that if you are training to be an auto mechanic, you can get under the hood of a real car to see what makes its engine run.

The class sizes of technical schools tend to be smaller than typical liberal arts colleges, meaning the instructor has greater availability if you need personalized attention. The days and times that technical colleges offer courses tends to be more flexible than a traditional college, mainly because more non-traditional students attend trade schools. These students are typically already working and may also have children to raise. They need greater flexibility in order to make attending school even possible.

Disadvantages of a Technical School Education
If you graduate and find there isn’t a lot of demand in your chosen field, you don’t have as many other skills to fall back on as you would with a broader education. Another possible drawback is that you may not be able to receive as large of a financial aid package as traditional college students. However, as someone who is most likely already working, you may be able to take advantage of a tuition reimbursement program from your employer. With the possibility of having your continuing education paid for, it’s certainly worth a trip to your human resources department to find out more information.

What do employers want?
Employers, like the rest of human nature, can be fickle people. Some think that a four-year degree shows a sense of commitment, while others prefer to hire someone with strong training in the field and aren’t as concerned about what else they know. Even before you decide on a school, you have a homework assignment. You need to research your chosen field to find out the minimum level of education required as well as the type and duration of education preferred by a majority of employers. You should also look at a long-range job forecast before committing to a specific field.

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Comparing Types of Colleges: The Pros and Cons of Community Colleges

November 29th, 2011 by rebeccac

community-college-students-ts200314321-001Choosing the right college can be a difficult task. In addition to cost, academics and location, students must also decide what type of educational institution they would like to attend: a community college, a four-year college or a university. While many students may be geared toward perusing a degree from a university, they should also stop to consider the benefits of a community college before they commit to an institution.

About Community Colleges
If you are new to the world of higher education, you may not be aware of the major differences between community colleges and four-year colleges and universities. Community colleges, or junior colleges, are two-year schools where students generally earn an associate degree or certificate in their field of study. A college or university, however, is a four-year institution where students earn bachelor, masters and doctoral degrees.

Community colleges have benefited from the recent infusion of government funding made possible by the American Graduation Initiative. This funding program aims to invest $12 billion into community colleges across the United States in order to help more students gain access to higher education.

Advantages of Community Colleges
One of the advantages of a community college is that they can help students develop the basic skills and study habits needed to excel in a university setting. Students may also prefer community colleges because of their smaller class size and greater access to instructors, which encourages better student outcomes. Since many universities have strict admissions standards, community colleges serve as a capstone option for students who have difficulty in school.

Community colleges are the perfect option for students who want to complete their core curriculum and then transfer to a four-year college or university. In many cases, universities have developed core curriculum requirements that work with local community colleges to ensure community college students’ credits transfer and are applicable to their four-year degree programs. Another big advantage of community college is cost. According to a recent ABC News report on the rising cost of higher education, in 2010, the average cost of tuition at a public two-year community college was $2,544, compared to the $7,020 students paid at four-year colleges and universities.

Disadvantages of Community Colleges
There are several disadvantages to community colleges, but many of them don’t rank on the priority lists of most non-traditional students. Many high school graduates forgo community colleges because they don’t want to miss out on the campus experience and activities like Greek life. However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind for the non-trads out there before jumping onto the two-year school bandwagon. Compared to a four-year institution, community colleges offer a smaller variety of academic programs and majors. If a student attends a community college with plans to transfer to a four-year college or university, they must be diligent about making sure their courses are transferable between the two intuitions, otherwise they may end up retaking courses they have already completed at the community college level.

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Comparing Types of Colleges: The Pros and Cons of For-Profit Schools

November 22nd, 2011 by rebeccac

There are a lot of different types of colleges and schools out there – probably even more than you realize. Public, private, community, for-profit, technical … which is the best one for you? We present a blog series that focuses on each one in turn and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of each.

For-Profit Schools

As a non-traditional college student, you have enough things to consider, such as where and how to complete classes, how to apply for financial aid, trying to hold down a job at the same time, and figuring out a major. With all of this swirling around in your brain already, you may not have given thought to whether you want to attend a college that is non-profit or for-profit. You may not even know the difference between them.

Non-Profit Colleges
When you think of a state university, with four-year college degree programs, onsite dormitories, a wide range of student activities and a campus on several acres of land, you are most likely envisioning a non-profit college. Students coming to college straight out of high school generally gravitate toward non-profit colleges, and for many, it is their first experience living apart from their parents so the community experience is almost as important as the learning.

Non-profit colleges receive their funding from the state legislator where the campus is located, as well as from private donors. Tuition from students goes back into the school to pay its operating costs. Generally, non-profit colleges are harder to get into than for-profit colleges because the latter receives its profits directly from student tuition and is less likely to turn down students who want to attend. With non-profit colleges, the goal of their existence is the education itself. With for-profit colleges, the goal is two-fold: the profit created for the organization in addition to the education students receive.

For-Profit Colleges
Since for-profit colleges get their funding from private investors and companies seeking to raise revenue, their structure is more like that of a business. The other major difference between for-profit and non-profit colleges is that for-profit schools are goal-oriented, focusing more on preparing students for specific careers than providing them with a liberal arts education. For-profit colleges also tend to have more flexible course offerings, such as online learning, evening and weekend courses, and part-time programs. This is because for-profit colleges generally attract older students who are already working and are looking for additional training to advance their careers. Non-traditional students need greater flexibility if they’re going to be able to swing going to college, working and raising a family at the same time.

If you’re looking for education that prepares you for a specific career in a shorter amount of time, for-profit colleges may be the way to go. While they do tend to attract non-traditional students, there are always exceptions. New high school graduates who have specific career training in mind may also be attracted to for-profit colleges and skip learning the liberal arts.

How to Decide
It’s your life, and you have to evaluate which type of school works the best for you without worrying about if your money is going back into the college or into a company’s bank account. As long as you are benefiting from the education, whether the college you attend is non-profit or for-profit is really a moot point.

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