2022 Top Private Colleges and Universities

Why choose a private college over a public college?

According to 2019-20 data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are approximately 1,900 private four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. NCES reports that during the 2019-2020 school year, four-year private schools charged $32,769 for tuition and fees, while public four-year schools charged $9,212.

Although private colleges cost more, students often get more scholarships, grants, and loans. Large endowment funds allow private schools to offer generous aid packages to students, which can offset the higher costs.

Private colleges offer a smaller learning environment and more insulated campus life. However, they also often have fewer degrees and extracurricular offerings than a public university. Students who want a large campus atmosphere with a huge catalog of degrees may prefer a public college.

Find out more about the pros and cons of private and public colleges in this guide. Learn about the admissions requirements for top-ranked private colleges in the U.S.

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

This site is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Showing 30 schools

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    Avg Tuition per YearTuition is the price you pay to attend classes. Tuition varies by school, and does not include costs associated with room and board, books, school supplies, meal plans, or transportation.

    $<1,000$100,000

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    #1

    Stanford University

    Stanford, CA

    Graduation Rate

    95%

    Enrollment

    15,953

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $55473

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $55473

    From its campus in Stanford, California, Stanford University offers multiple programs as a private institution. Students earn an accredited degree that prepares them for the workforce. The institution offers affordable programs that do not sacrifice academic rigor. Several of the school's programs appear in national rankings. The school's cost per credit is unknown. Degree-seekers at this accredited institution may qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Degree-seekers choose from academic and technical programs at the institution. Depending on their major, learners complete fundamentals courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

    #2

    Harvard University

    Cambridge, MA

    Graduation Rate

    98%

    Enrollment

    30,391

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $49653

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $49653

    From its campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University enrolls learners in 491 programs. Degree-seekers enroll in rigorous, top-ranked programs at the school. The school reports a 5-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. A total of 72% of students receive some form of financial aid. Degree-seekers graduate from the school at a rate of 98%. The institution understands that hands-on experience helps job seekers enter the workforce. Degree-seekers benefit from internships, research opportunities, and other forms of service learning. The admission rate is 5% for incoming students. Some programs let applicants apply without submitting test scores.

    #3

    University of Chicago

    Chicago, IL

    Graduation Rate

    96%

    Enrollment

    17,834

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $57642

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $57642

    Located in Illinois, University of Chicago offers 232 programs for students. The institution's rigorous programs rank among the best in the nation. The school has a student-to-faculty ratio of 5-to-1. According to the school, 57% of students receive some form of financial aid. Students graduate from the school at a rate of 96%. The institution understands that real-world experience helps job seekers enter the workforce. The school offers internships, research opportunities, and other forms of experiential learning. The admission rate is 7% for hopeful students. Some programs operate with a test-optional policy for admissions.

    #4

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Cambridge, MA

    Graduation Rate

    96%

    Enrollment

    11,254

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $53450

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $53450

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which enrolls students in programs from its Cambridge, Massachusetts campus. Learners choose from a variety of degree-granting programs. With academic and technical tracks, the school offers programs for learners with a variety of professional goals. Enrollees can earn an associate degree in two years, a bachelor's degree in four years, a master's degree in 1-2 years, or a doctoral degree in 3-7 years. Some programs may no longer require standardized tests for admission. Flexible admission score requirements make it easier to apply. The admissions department provides more information about the application process. Financial aid helps degree-seekers pay for their education. The school is accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education.

    #5

    Princeton University

    Princeton, NJ

    Graduation Rate

    98%

    Enrollment

    7,853

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $48502

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $48502

    From its campus in Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University grants degrees as a private institution. With both academic and technical programs, the college helps students reach their educational goals. During a bachelor's degree, students take lower-division and upper-division coursework. Undergraduates also complete general education classes. Degree-seekers study advanced concepts in their major during upper-division courses. The school supports learners with tutoring and career services. The cost per credit is unknown. Learners at the accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid programs such as the Pell Grant. The school is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

    #6

    Yale University

    New Haven, CT

    Graduation Rate

    96%

    Enrollment

    12,060

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $57700

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $57700

    Located in New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University is a private institution that offers multiple programs. The school's accredited degrees help graduates launch or advance professional careers. Degree-seekers benefit from academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Several of the school's programs appear in national rankings. The school's average cost per credit is unknown. Degree-seekers at this accredited institution may qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Learners choose from academic and technical programs. Depending on their program, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. Yale University is accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education.

    #7

    University of Pennsylvania

    Philadelphia, PA

    Graduation Rate

    96%

    Enrollment

    26,552

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $53166

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $53166

    From its campus in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania enrolls students as a private institution. With both academic and technical programs, the institution helps students reach their educational goals. Bachelor's programs educate students with lower-division and upper-division coursework. The 120-credit bachelor's programs also include general education credits. Upper-division credits emphasize advanced concepts in the major. The school supports students with tutoring and career services. Students can expect to spend around 13995 per credit while earning a degree. At the accredited school, learners qualify for federal student aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. University of Pennsylvania is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

    #8

    Columbia University in the City of New York

    New York, NY

    Graduation Rate

    96%

    Enrollment

    30,135

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $57864

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $57864

    Located in New York, New York, Columbia University in the City of New York enrolls students as a private institution. The school's academic and technical programs help students reach a variety of professional goals. During a bachelor's degree, undergraduates take lower-division and upper-division coursework. The school's 120-credit bachelor's programs also include general education credits. Upper-division courses typically focus on advanced concepts within a major. Learners benefit from support services like tutoring and career counseling. The amount students pay per credit on average is currently unknown. Learners at the accredited institution qualify for federal aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Columbia University in the City of New York is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

    #9

    Brown University

    Providence, RI

    Graduation Rate

    95%

    Enrollment

    9,948

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $59254

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $59254

    Located in Rhode Island, Brown University enrolls students in 303 programs. The institution's top-ranked programs offer a rigorous course of study. The school reports a 6-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. According to the school, 55% of students receive some form of financial aid. Students earn their bachelor's degree from the school at a rate of 95%. The institution's commitment to experiential learning helps graduates on the job market. Degree-seekers participate in internships, research projects, and other forms of experiential learning. The admission rate is 8%. Some programs offer a waiver for standardized test scores.

    #10

    Dartmouth College

    Hanover, NH

    Graduation Rate

    95%

    Enrollment

    6,292

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $57796

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $57796

    From its campus in Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth College grants college degrees as a private institution. With both academic and technical programs, the college helps students reach their career goals. Undergraduates complete lower-division and upper-division coursework to earn a bachelor's degree. The school's 120-credit bachelor's programs also include general education credits. Students learn advanced concepts in their major during upper-division courses. Enrollees receive support in the form of tutoring and career services. The amount students pay per credit is unknown at this time. Learners at the accredited institution qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Dartmouth College has been accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education, an independent accrediting body.

    #11

    Heritage Christian University

    Florence, AL

    Graduation Rate

    14%

    Enrollment

    110

    Format

    Online

    In-State Tuition

    $10152

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $10152

    A private institution located in Florence, Alabama, Heritage Christian University enrolls students in several programs. The school offers programs that prepare learners for the workforce. Learners enroll in academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Several of the school's programs appear in national rankings. Information on the school's cost per credit is unavailable. Degree-seekers attending the accredited institution may qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. The school offers both academic and technical programs. Depending on their major, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. Heritage Christian University has received accreditation from the Association for Bibical Higher Educaiton.

    #12

    Bowdoin College

    Brunswick, ME

    Graduation Rate

    95%

    Enrollment

    1,777

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $55822

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $55822

    Bowdoin College, located in Brunswick, Maine, enrolls students in 47 programs. The institution's rigorous programs rank among the best in the nation. The student-to-faculty ratio at the school is 8-to-1. According to the the school's reports, 58% of its students receive financial assistance. The school reports a 95% graduation rate. Experiential learning opportunities help graduates on the job market. The admission rate is 9% for incoming students. Some programs provide a test-optional admission option. Admissions advisors can provide more information about application requirements and start dates.

    #13

    The Juilliard School

    New York, NY

    Graduation Rate

    94%

    Enrollment

    961

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $49260

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $49260

    From its New York, New York campus, The Juilliard School enrolls learners in 67 programs. Learners enroll in top-ranked programs that offer a rigorous course of study. The school holds a student-to-faculty ratio of 5-to-1. The institution reports that 92% of undergraduates receive some form of financial aid. Enrollees graduate from the school at a rate of 94%. Real-world experience helps candidates stand out on the job market. The school offers internships, research opportunities, and other forms of experiential learning. The school reports an 8% admission rate. Many schools no longer require test scores for admission.

    #14

    Northwestern University

    Evanston, IL

    Graduation Rate

    95%

    Enrollment

    22,603

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $58227

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $58227

    From its campus in Evanston, Illinois, Northwestern University enrolls students as a private institution. Learners learn from experts in multiple disciplines. The college offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. The school's average cost per credit is unknown. At the accredited institution, learners qualify for financial aid, including federal loans, scholarships, and grants. At the institution, 66% of students receive financial aid and 21% take out loans. The school reports a graduation rate of 95%. The school reports a 9% admission rate. The admissions office provides more information about application requirements and start dates. Northwestern University has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    #15

    Duke University

    Durham, NC

    Graduation Rate

    96%

    Enrollment

    16,172

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $55880

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $55880

    Duke University, located in Durham, North Carolina, grants degrees as a private institution. Enrollees study with experts in many different fields. The school offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. The school's cost per credit is unknown. Students at the accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid, including grants and loans. The institution reports that 63% of learners receive financial aid, while 18% take out loans. Learners graduate from the school at a rate of 96%. The admission rate is 8% for hopeful students. Prospective students can contact the admissions department for more details about application requirements. Duke University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #16

    Cornell University

    Ithaca, NY

    Graduation Rate

    95%

    Enrollment

    23,620

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $58586

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $58586

    From its New York campus, Cornell University offers 372 degree-granting programs. Students benefit from rigorous programs that rank among the best in the nation. The school holds a student-to-faculty ratio of 9-to-1. According to the school, 59% of undergraduates receive some form of financial aid. Students earn their bachelor's degree from the school at a rate of 95%. The institution understands that hands-on experience helps job seekers enter the workforce. Learners participate in internships, research projects, and other forms of experiential learning. Prospective enrollees can expect an 11% admission rate. Some programs offer test-optional admission policies.

    #17

    California Institute of Technology

    Pasadena, CA

    Graduation Rate

    92%

    Enrollment

    2,240

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $54570

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $54570

    California Institute of Technology grants degrees as a private institution from its location in Pasadena, California. Enrollees take courses with experts in diverse disciplines. Students who complete a technical or academic program may enter the workforce. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. Enrollees at the accredited institution qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. According to the institution, 74% of students receive aid and 4% receive loans. The private school reports a graduation rate of 92%. Hopeful students can expect admission rates of 7%. Admissions advisors can provide more information about application requirements and start dates. The school holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #18

    Curtis Institute of Music

    Philadelphia, PA

    Graduation Rate

    85%

    Enrollment

    145

    Format

    In person

    Not Provided

    Not Provided

    From its Philadelphia, Pennsylvania campus, Curtis Institute of Music enrolls students in 12 programs. The institution offers top-ranked programs that provide a rigorous course of study. The school reports a student-to-faculty ratio of 2-to-1. According to the school, 100% of students receive some form of financial aid. The school reports a graduation rate of 85%. The institution's commitment to experiential learning helps graduates on the job market. Hopeful learners can expect admission rates of 2%. Applicants may qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. Prospective students can contact the admissions office for more information about applying.

    #19

    University of Notre Dame

    Notre Dame, IN

    Graduation Rate

    97%

    Enrollment

    12,809

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $57192

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $57192

    University of Notre Dame, located in Notre Dame, Indiana, enrolls students as a private institution. Enrollees study with experts in many different fields. The school's academic and technical programs prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. Information on the school's cost per credit is unavailable. Students at the accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid, including grants and loans. A total of 68% of students receive financial aid and 31% take out loans at the school. Students earn their bachelor's degree from the school at a rate of 97%. The admission rate is 19% for incoming students. The admission department can provide more information about application requirements and start dates. University of Notre Dame is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    #20

    Vanderbilt University

    Nashville, TN

    Graduation Rate

    93%

    Enrollment

    13,537

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $52781

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $52781

    A top-ranked school, Vanderbilt University enrolls learners in programs from its campus in Nashville, Tennessee. The institution offers a variety of degree-granting programs. With academic and technical tracks, the school's programs help students meet their professional goals. Generally, it takes two years to complete an associate degree, four years to earn a bachelor's degree, 1-2 years for a master's degree, or 3-7 years for a doctoral degree. Applicants may qualify for test-optional admissions. This makes it easier to enroll. Admission advisors can help applicants complete the process. Learners at the accredited institution also qualify for financial aid to cover costs. The school holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #21

    Webb Institute

    Glen Cove, NY

    Graduation Rate

    83%

    Enrollment

    101

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $52420

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $52420

    A private institution located in Glen Cove, New York, Webb Institute offers multiple programs. Graduates leave the school prepared for the workforce. The institution offers academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Students can enroll in nationally ranked programs. The institution's cost per credit is unknown. Degree-seekers at the accredited school may qualify for federal financial aid, including the Pell Grant. Learners choose from academic and technical majors at the school. Depending on their major, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

    #22

    Barnard College

    New York, NY

    Graduation Rate

    90%

    Enrollment

    2,744

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $55781

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $55781

    Barnard College enrolls students at its New York, New York campus as a private institution. Instructors draw on their expertise in diverse fields. The college offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. Enrollees at the accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid, including grants and loans. At the institution, 48% of students receive aid and 23% receive loans. Enrollees graduate from the school at a rate of 90%. The admission rate for new students is 14%. Prospective students can contact the admissions department for more details about application requirements. Barnard College has received accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, an independent accrediting body.

    #23

    Washington University in St Louis

    Saint Louis, MO

    Graduation Rate

    94%

    Enrollment

    15,449

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $56300

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $56300

    Washington University in St Louis, which is often listed among the best schools, operates from its main campus in Saint Louis, Missouri. The college offers multiple degree-granting programs. The school offers academic and technical tracks to help learners meet a variety of professional goals. Degree-seekers can earn an associate degree in two years, a bachelor's degree in four years, a master's degree in 1-2 years, or a doctoral degree in 3-7 years. Depending on the program, applicants may need to submit test scores. Applicants may find it easier to enroll without a test score requirement. The admissions department can help prospective students determine the next steps. At the accredited institution, degree-seekers also qualify for financial aid to pay for school. Washington University in St Louis is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #24

    Swarthmore College

    Swarthmore, PA

    Graduation Rate

    97%

    Enrollment

    1,437

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $54256

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $54256

    Swarthmore College, a private organization located in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, offers multiple programs. The school offers programs that prepare learners for the workforce. The programs offer an academically rigorous course of study at an affordable price. Several of the school's programs appear in national rankings. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. Degree-seekers at the accredited school may qualify for federal financial aid, including the Pell Grant. The school offers both academic and technical programs. Depending on their program, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. Swarthmore College holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

    #25

    Rice University

    Houston, TX

    Graduation Rate

    94%

    Enrollment

    7,643

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $50310

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $50310

    Located in Houston, Texas, Rice University ranks as one of the top colleges. The institution offers a variety of degree-granting programs. The school's academic and technical tracks help students meet diverse career goals. Students typically earn an associate degree in two years, a bachelor's degree in four years, a master's degree in two, and a doctoral degree in 3-7 years. Applicants may qualify for a standardized test score waiver. A test score waiver makes it easier to enroll. The admissions department can help prospective students determine the next steps. At the accredited institution, students also qualify for financial aid to pay for school. Rice University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

    #26

    Georgetown University

    Washington, DC

    Graduation Rate

    94%

    Enrollment

    19,371

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $57384

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $57384

    From its Washington, District of Columbia campus, Georgetown University enrolls students in 220 programs. The institution's programs offer a rigorous course of study. The student-to-faculty ratio at the school is 11-to-1. According to the school, 54% of undergraduates receive some form of financial aid. Degree-seekers graduate from the school at a rate of 94%. The institution understands that hands-on experience helps job seekers enter the workforce. Learners participate in internships, research projects, and other forms of experiential learning. The admission rate is 17% for prospective students. Some applicants qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores.

    #27

    Pomona College

    Claremont, CA

    Graduation Rate

    94%

    Enrollment

    1,475

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $54380

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $54380

    A top-ranked school, Pomona College enrolls learners in programs from its campus in Claremont, California. Degree-seekers study with experts in many different fields. The school's academic and technical tracks help students meet diverse career goals. Depending on the degree or certificate type, enrollees can spend anywhere from a few months up to as many as seven years completing a program. Some programs may let applicants apply without submitting test scores. Flexible admission score requirements make it easier to apply. The admissions department can help students complete the process. Degree-seekers also use financial aid to cover their educational costs. Pomona College is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #28

    Bates College

    Lewiston, ME

    Graduation Rate

    92%

    Enrollment

    1,876

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $57353

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $57353

    Located in Lewiston, Maine, Bates College attracts students with their well-regarded programs. Instructors bring expertise in their fields. The school offers academic and technical tracks to help learners meet a variety of professional goals. Check the program website for specifics on the degree- or certificate-completion timeline. Some applicants qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. This makes it easier to enroll. The admissions department provides additional resources on applying to the school. At the accredited institution, enrollees also qualify for financial aid to pay for school. Bates College holds accreditation from the New England Commission on Higher Education.

    #29

    Williams College

    Williamstown, MA

    Graduation Rate

    96%

    Enrollment

    1,987

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $50450

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $50450

    Located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, Williams College offers multiple programs as a private institution. The school's programs help graduates launch or advance professional careers. The institution provides academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. The school boasts several programs that appear in national rankings. The amount students pay per credit on average is unknown. Degree-seekers at the accredited school may qualify for federal financial aid, including the Pell Grant. Degree-seekers choose from academic and technical programs at the institution. Depending on their program, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. Williams College has received accreditation from the New England Commission on Higher Education.

    #30

    Franklin W Olin College of Engineering

    Needham, MA

    Graduation Rate

    94%

    Enrollment

    310

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $53990

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $53990

    From its campus in Needham, Massachusetts, Franklin W Olin College of Engineering grants college degrees as a private institution. With both academic and technical programs, the college helps learners reach their professional goals. The institution offers coursework that gives students the chance to build industry-specific knowledge. Depending on the program, applicants may need to submit test scores. A waiver makes it easier to enroll. Enrollees receive support in the form of tutoring and career services. The school's cost per credit is unknown. Learners at the accredited school qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Franklin W Olin College of Engineering holds accreditation from the New England Commission on Higher Education, an independent accrediting body.

    Why Choose a Private College or University?

    While private schools generally cost more, they also offer an active alumni network, a strong sense of campus community, and, for students at religious institutions, a faith-based curriculum.

    Students also choose private colleges because of the personalized education and small class sizes.

    Statista reports that out of the nearly 19 million students enrolled in college in 2020, some 5.12 million attended private schools. Courses at private colleges tend to offer a more personalized experience and better access to instructors, faculty, and staff.

    This intimate environment can foster positive student outcomes and more opportunities for mentorships, fellowships, and leadership positions on and off campus.

    Pros and Cons of Private Colleges and Universities

    Pros of Private Schools

    • Check Circle
      Tight-knit alumni associations
    • Check Circle
      More grants and scholarships available to students because of large endowment funds
    • Check Circle
      Smaller classes
    • Check Circle
      Alternative teaching methods and creative class structures
    • Check Circle
      Religious-influenced education that may suit a student’s learning preferences
    • Check Circle
      Higher prestige and quality of education, depending on the school
    • Check Circle
      Small private colleges may have less competition for popular courses

    Cons of Private Schools

    • X Circle
      Smaller campus life and less social opportunities
    • X Circle
      Higher tuition
    • X Circle
      Less diversity
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      Lacks state or federal regulation
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      Not every student prefers religious-required curriculum
    • X Circle
      More selective admissions with lower admission rate
    • X Circle
      Fewer degrees and programs available to students

    Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

    What Are the Admission Requirements for a Private College or University?

    The college admission process looks similar at private and public schools. Prospective students always submit applications and fees, usually through an online portal. Colleges also ask for additional materials such as official transcripts, personal statement essays, and letters of recommendation from professors, counselors, and employers.

    The admissions rate often differs between private and public colleges. According to 2019 data from the National Association for College Admission Counseling, private colleges tend to have lower admission rates than their public counterparts.

    This trend, coupled with lower enrollment rates, makes the application process more competitive. Specific admissions details depend on a student’s status as a first-year student, transfer student, or international student.

    Colleges may require standardized test scores, such as the ACT or SAT exams for first-year students. Entrance exams, required for international students and students who do not meet GPA requirements, test a student’s proficiency in English and math.

    How Do I Choose a Private College or University?

    Cost

    Private colleges almost always cost more than public universities. According to NCES, the average cost of tuition and fees at a private four-year college came to $32,769 in 2019-2020, up from $31,883 the year before. Room and board in 2019-2020 cost students an average of $13,162 at private schools. International fees can make attending private college even more expensive.

    Despite common misconceptions about paying for college, students should understand that the “sticker price” for college does not reflect the actual costs, which can be higher or lower. The total cost of college includes hidden costs such as health insurance and student health center fees, technology fees, student activity fees, books and materials, transportation, and parking fees.

    Accreditation

    Institutional accreditation serves as a quality assurance that a college meets educational standards. Accreditation happens when colleges voluntarily get reviewed by independent accrediting agencies. Students often need to attend accredited schools to transfer credits or go to graduate school.

    Much like the institutional accreditation process, specific programs can show that they meet industry standards through programmatic accreditation. In industries like healthcare and education, graduates often need to attend accredited programs to get professional certification or find a job.

    Location

    Many students relocate to different cities, states, and even other countries for college.

    Students who go to college close to home have the benefit of a shorter commute, which saves money and time. However, going to college nearby also means you may not get the dorm experience and may miss out on campus activities.

    Online learners can often earn a degree without having to relocate, or even travel to campus at all. For private school students, location may matter less because it does not impact in-state tuition rates like at a public university.

    Student Support

    Student support services can help you make the most of your college experience and set you up for success after graduation.

    Colleges should offer academic and career advising to help new students map out their college journey and pick the right courses. Math and writing tutors offer students in-person and remote help at no cost. Students may also be able to find mentorship opportunities, networking opportunities, and internships.

    Alumni associations also help graduates continue to make connections for social and career opportunities years after college.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Private Colleges and Universities

    Are private colleges and universities better than public schools?

    Many private colleges hold a lot of prestige, but public colleges also have excellent reputations. Students should pick a college based on what matters to them and their learning style. Deciding factors include cost, location, program offerings, and size.

    Private colleges typically have a smaller student body, which means fewer people on campus and in the classroom. People who enjoy more one-on-one time with professors and a small college atmosphere will prefer a private university.

    Large public universities tend to offer a livelier campus life and more diverse student body. Public colleges also tend to have more majors, research funding, and extracurricular activities.

    Is a private college or university worth it?

    It could be. Between 2010-2011 and 2020-2021, tuition and fees increased from $8,500-$9,400 at public four-year schools. During that time, tuition and fees increased from $31,600-$35,900 at private nonprofit four-year colleges.

    While a private college or university often costs more, students can have more one-on-one mentoring opportunities with faculty and instructors. The personalized attention and education at a private college may help students graduate on time and launch their careers faster.

    According to 2019 data from NCES, 49.1% of students at private nonprofit colleges and 25.5% of students at for-profit colleges graduated within four years, compared to 36.3% of undergraduates at public colleges.

    How many private colleges are there in California?

    According to NCES, California has 258 private four-year colleges, including 177 private nonprofit colleges and 81 private for-profit schools. The state has 125 two-year private colleges and 187 “less-than-two-year”colleges, or vocational schools.

    Students can pick from large private colleges such as the University of Southern California near downtown Los Angeles with a student body of around 49,500. Or, they may prefer smaller private institutions such as Scripps College in Claremont, with a total enrollment of around 1,080 undergraduate and 20 graduate students.

    Why are private colleges so expensive?

    Private colleges do not receive as much federal and state funding as public colleges. Instead, the bulk of funding dollars comes from tuition and private donations, which allows them to have more autonomy in their funding decisions.

    However, private schools also charge more than public colleges because they rely heavily on these funding sources. That said, private colleges also offer larger financial aid packages to students based on merit.

    Tuition at private colleges varies widely from state to state. In the 2019-2020 school year, private colleges in Massachusetts charged an average of $47,980 for tuition and fees —the highest rate in the country. Meanwhile, private institutions in Idaho charged an average of $6,429 for tuition and fees during that same year.

    Can I get more scholarship money at a private university?

    Students often don’t consider private colleges because of the sticker price, which can be misleading. Unlike public universities, private universities often provide more financial aid to students based on their merit, not financial need.

    Most first-time undergraduate students receive grants and loans. These forms of financial aid have increased from 2009-2010 to 2019-2020. Public colleges awarded 85% of first-time undergraduates aid in 2019-2020, compared to 90% at private nonprofit colleges and 87% at private for-profit institutions. Private colleges also offer often-generous scholarships that students do not need to repay.