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Feb   2012

Tue

21

The Monetary and Academic Value of a Public Education

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Tags: public colleges, business schools, in-state students, honors programs, public college business schools, financial aid

by
Assistant Editor, Wintergreen Orchard House

Crunch the numbers and you will see that a public college, particularly for in-state students, is significantly more affordable than most private colleges and universities. The reason being is that public colleges are supported by state and local governments, and costs are able to stay low due to tax dollars provided by the state. A college education is not just about the cost, though. It’s important that the value of your education goes far beyond the amount of money you spend on it. Many public universities have exceptional academic reputations and can help you stay within a budget. Here are some things to consider so you can find a college that fits your academic goals but also won’t have you paying off loans for the next 25 years.

More than money

I’m not suggesting you go to the school that is the lowest cost to you no matter what. There are many other factors to consider when choosing a college or university to attend. For instance, does a school have the major you want to study? How does their program compare to other schools? An advantage to large public universities is that there are often a wide variety of programs offered. This can be particularly helpful to students who enroll as undeclared and want to wait until they take a few classes to decide what suits and interests them best. Having more options allows you to major in something that interests you, while giving you the flexibility to change your mind if, down the road, you decide to switch majors. Is being in an honors college an important factor to you when deciding where to go to school? Many public colleges and universities have highly regarded honors programs that could rival those of private colleges and look impressive on a resume.

Do the research

Not all public colleges and universities are the same, just like not all private colleges and universities are the same. Some have better academic reputations than others, some are research institutions that have contributed discoveries to the fields of science and technology, and some have renowned business schools. It’s important to know where your school stands among others. Do some research to find out the student-faculty ratio, the rankings of reputable publication, and alumni accomplishments since graduating. Being well-informed of all aspects of the school you choose will help you get more out of your degree.

What’s the right answer?

A solid academic education plus an affordable education equals one happy student. Graduating with little or no loans is an incredible advantage when trying to start a career or move out on your own. A public education can help you achieve that goal if you finance your education correctly and take advantage of financial aid as necessary. Bottom line, you should not base your college decision on money alone because you’ll never be happy with your choice if you choose a cheaper school in which you have no interest. If, after thorough research, you decide that a public college or university is right for you because it has a program you’re interested in, tuition you can afford, and is in a location where you want to be, then you can rest assured that you’ve made a good decision. 

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