How to Decide Between a Public or Private College

How to Decide Between a Public or Private College

Earning your college degree is more important in today’s professional world than ever before—with one in every three people holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. While a college degree is beneficial across the board, the type of institution from which you earn your degree is a deeply personal decision. With so many factors weighing in on your college decision, how do you choose whether a public or private college is the right fit for you?

Cost of Tuition

How the schools are funded is a key factor differentiating public and private colleges. The funding a college receives outside of tuition directly affects its tuition price. Most public colleges are subsidized by state governments, meaning less of the college’s operating cost will have to be funded with tuition. On the other hand, private colleges rely on private contributions to offset tuition costs and do not receive government subsidies.

Though private colleges have a reputation of carrying a hefty price tag (just take a look at the 20 priciest schools in the nation), many smaller private schools have been recognized as the best value for higher education. A private college in Portland, Oregon even reduced tuition prices over the past couple of years—practically unheard of in a market that experienced a tuition increase of 179% among private colleges, and tuition increases of 226% for in-state and 296% for out-of-state students among public colleges over the past 20 years.

Public universities are often cheaper for in-state students and increase tuition costs significantly for out-of-state students. When applying to out-of-state schools, a small private college will often cost as much or even less than a public university.

With fewer students, grants and scholarships allocated directly through private schools may be available to a larger portion of the student body than those allocated through a public college.

Living costs such as average rent also need to be taken into account. The average monthly rent for an apartment in Portland will be very different than the same apartment in New York City. Because financial aid, grants, scholarships, living costs, and residency all factor into the amount paid for a college degree (outside of base tuition), determining how much a student will pay for a private college versus a public college varies significantly.

Class and Campus Size

Traditionally, private colleges are smaller than public colleges in both student body and campus size. Students looking to “blend in” may like a public college’s 200-person lecture halls, while others thrive in a more intimate classroom setting.

If a public college is divided into different schools, class sizes will likely shrink for students choosing a specific track within a degree, especially for upperclassmen. Class sizes at small private colleges are typically small enough to facilitate interaction among students and professors. Students who think they may thrive in classrooms that make it easy to get to know both professors and fellow students should consider a small private college.

Large public colleges are often considered research universities, employing professors who teach in order to secure support for their research. While this is not always the case, students are more likely to encounter this at a large public school than a small private college.

Students seeking instructors with a greater passion for teaching may find private schools to be a better fit. If a student is particularly interested in research (rather than, for example, a business degree) he or she may choose a public research university over a private Christian college due to the larger number of opportunities to pursue specialized research as part of their degree.

Campus layout is huge in determining the feel of a school. Some college campuses are spread through an entire city or neighborhood, with no real center or meeting space, utilizing the city’s public transportation and fostering a feeling of being in the “real world”. Other campuses have a clear central meeting spot and establish clear campus boundaries that foster on-foot commuting. Many colleges incorporate natural areas such as forests, rivers or beaches into campus—choosing the right campus feel is completely up to student preference and varies within public and private colleges themselves. The best way to decide what works best for you is to schedule a campus visit.

Area of Study

Students looking to major or minor in a specific topic, such as a language or area of history, may struggle to find their area of study listed among degree options at private colleges. Large public universities typically offer more major and minor options (Oregon State University offers more than 200 undergraduate degree programs), and therefore a larger pool of classes to choose from.  

Private colleges offer less diversity in majors, but often specialize in a specific academic focus. One private college may be top-notch for liberal or fine arts while another specializes in math and engineering. Incoming freshmen who know their focus—biochemical engineering or contemporary dance, for example—may find the specialization of a small private school beneficial when honing their craft.

Sports Teams

A college’s athletic department can be a huge part of campus culture. Students who want the experience of roaring football stadiums and intense school rivalries may find a large public university to be a good fit. On the other hand, if you’re vying to be a student athlete, sports teams at small private colleges are usually less competitive and easier to make. Both small private colleges and large public universities often have recreational sports teams that create community and keep students active.


A school’s community is largely determined by size and campus layout, though many factors go into the broader sense of community at a school. Some colleges have a strong network of fraternities and sororities, and some are known for their school newspapers.

Ask yourself: what’s important to you? If your faith is an important influence on your college experience, you may choose a private Christian college. If a strong athletic department is an important piece of your desired college experience, you may choose a large public college with D1 sports teams.

Smaller schools tend to create a tight-knit student body, though a large public college can feel smaller when students get involved in extracurricular activities such as school clubs. Look into college alumni associations, too (both public and private colleges have them). A community of alumni who are still active in their college community is a good indication that students value what they got out of their college experience. Alumni can also provide leads on internships and other ways to transition from college to career.




When to Start the College Admissions Process

When to Start the College Admissions Process

As your high school graduation quickly approaches, the process of applying to colleges may seem like an overwhelming task. Which colleges will you apply to? Will you accept alternatives? How much, if any, financial aid do you need? All of these questions, and more, need answers as you start the college admission process. You may also be asking yourself when exactly is the best time to begin thinking about private college admissions. These are some things to consider.

When Should I Start Thinking About College?

While it’s never too early to consider what colleges you’d like to attend, the actual application process should begin in earnest during the summer before your senior year. During that time, you should begin to seriously narrow down where to apply. You’ll want to take advantage of the free time that summer vacation offers to research schools as the last thing you want is to be rushed during this process!

It’s important to take your time figuring out exactly what you want, so don’t wait until the summer is almost over. Be diligent in the research you do; at this point, you can’t be sure exactly where you’ll end up so have several options that you think will fit you well. You should also consider that many colleges allow you to apply early; this may increase your chances of being accepted, although it may also require you to commit to a school sooner so decide whether early application is right for you.

How Do I Choose a College?

There are many factors to consider when choosing which colleges to apply to. Of course, you should consider your major and focus on schools that have programs suited to your area of interest. Think about what the college’s admission requirements are, but don’t necessarily become discouraged if you think you don’t quite meet them. Often, the test scores listed on the school website are averages; if yours are slightly lower that doesn’t necessarily mean an automatic rejection.

There should be other considerations as well; research the cost of the schools and the campus culture. Don’t pick a school just because a friend (or boyfriend or girlfriend) is going there. Location matters as well! Do you plan to relocate for college, or stay closer to home? The culture of the college is important, too. Avoid selecting schools just because of the “party” reputations or other non-academic factors. Do consider, however, the values that matter to the school that you’re applying to. Visit the websites, social media and read the mission statements to get an understanding of a college’s core values. If you plan to go to college in the Portland area, and your Christian faith is a strong part of your life, applying at Warner Pacific College is an excellent choice.

What Do I Put On My Application?

Once you’ve narrowed down your potential choices to a manageable list (five to eight is usually recommended), it’s time to start work on the application. Most likely, these applications will need to be submitted by September, so allow plenty of time during summer break to perfect them.

Putting together applications for private college admissions is a bit of an art form; you’ll want to convey your unique personality so the school can see what type of person you are. If you are applying to a school that values leadership, for example, make sure your application emphasizes your leadership abilities. Colleges look not only at courses you completed, they also consider extracurricular activities (clubs, volunteering).

What Else Do I Need?

Often, it’s not enough to simply send in your application. You may need to do more if you want to maximize your chances of being admitted; letters of recommendation from teachers are an example of something that you may want to include. Ask your teachers for these as soon as you can! If the deadline for your application is in early fall, then you’ll want to have a letter ready to go by then. Teachers are busy people, so they may need some time to write your letter. It is not polite to rush them.

Early on in the process you should also consider how you expect to pay for college; find out how much your family plans to contribute and consult with the schools themselves about potential financial aid options.

I Submitted My Application, Now What?

The college admission process does not stop simply because you’ve submitted your application. More than ever, it’s essential you keep your grades up and make sure that potential colleges still see you as a good choice. It is possible for a school to revoke an acceptance offer should you prove to no longer meet the criteria due to falling grades during your senior year.

Usually, acceptance letters do not begin arriving until February, so you’ll have to be patient as you wait to start seeing them. Once they do begin to come in, congratulations! Your hard work will have begun to pay off. During this period, you can re-visit and tour your top choice schools. Observe as much as you can; the campus, the classrooms, and the housing situation should all be factors to consider.

Private college admissions are not easy, so you should be proud once you’ve completed this process! You will have taken a big step toward the next chapter of your life. The actions you take when applying for colleges will have a very profound effect on the rest of your life, so make sure you go through this process with deliberation and care.




The Benefits of Going to an In-City College

The Benefits of Going to an In-City Colleget

You’re about to take the leap into college. You are already considering what major you are interested in. Have you decided if an urban or rural college experience is for you? Both have their benefits; however, there are some major differences when it comes to what each can offer you.

If you’ve grown up living in the in the suburbs or just outside of the city, the idea of taking one of the biggest steps in your life while simultaneously moving to the middle of an urban city can seem like a massive undertaking. As an Oregonian, Portland is not only our largest city, it is a  truly vibrant and diverse urban city and it offers a number of excellent in-city colleges. Choosing a Portland university can provide you with a wide range of benefits that a rural college experience can’t.

Enjoy A Wide Range Of Activities

Portland universities are just one part of the bustling cultural center that bring energy to  Portland. In addition to all of the activities offered by the university itself, you have the opportunity to explore the vast array of festivals, arts and cultural events, hip streets, musical venues and shops that are only available in a bigger city. Take your study group off campus to a trendy coffee shop, or sit in one of the many amazing inner city parks to read a book.

Live In An Up And Coming Area

As a college student attending a Portland university, you have the option to live in the dorms or to join up with friends and live off-campus. The city is filled with adorable neighborhoods with housing only blocks from trendy streets like Alberta or Division. Choose a home-base that inspires you to go outside and enjoy the city life so close by.

Take Advantage Of Public Transit

Another benefit of attending an in-city college is having access to public transit. Portland has an excellent array of choices, with buses, a light-rail (MAX), a trolley and even a train station nestled in downtown Portland to take you further. Try a ZipCar, take an Uber or Lyft, or rent an orange bikeshare cycle. Having to own a car is definitely an option when you are in Portland and there are many ways to save on that expense and still experience all the city has to offer.

Work Your Way Through College

With the city right outside your doorstep, you have so many opportunities for work available to you. It’s easy to find a day or night job working at a local coffee shop or serving at a restaurant. Often, Portland universities offer night classes and internships to help you find the right balance between work and study.

Start Networking Now

Most graduating students find themselves moving to the city after college to look for networking contacts, internships and opportunities for professional growth in their field. Attending an in-city college gives you access to these people and experiences before you are thrust into the real world. There are countless opportunities to meet new people, attend networking meetings and job fairs, and businesses that inspire you.

Experience New Cultures

Choosing an in-city college often means taking a trip outside of your hometown and exposing yourself to new experiences and cultures. Portland’s neighborhood offer diverse dining options including food carts, distinct entertainment (music, performance), unique architecture, large natural areas, and eclectic boutiques.

Access A Wide Range Of Resources

Public libraries, museums, meetup groups, industry experts, all of these are at your fingertips when you go to an in-city college. You are as limited in your access to professional and academic resources as your imagination is. Have a paper to write on small businesses? Go to a small business meetup group and ask founders and CEOs about their experiences. Attending a Portland university means you are in the middle of one of the fastest growing cities in America, and every day you have access to more and more unique experiences.

Take Classes At Other Universities

Portland has 19 in-city colleges available. Because there is such a large network of colleges available in the city, a lot of Portland universities also allow you to take classes at other colleges. This gives you the chance to expand your experiences even more. Adding new chances to meet people who can help you on your career path, and providing you with different avenues of learning than the Portland university you may have chosen.

Take A Trip To Anywhere

The convenience of having an international airport right in the city opens your Portland college experience up even more. Take a trip to a new place on your spring break. Explore the world and get new experiences from different cultures.

There are countless benefits to attending an in-city college. From having a diverse cultural exposure, to the benefit of experiencing a wide range of social and career building activities, you are sure to find growth and surprises during your time in college.