Visualizing Public vs. Private Education (Two Letter Worlds)

This was originally posted on my other site, Two Letter Worlds, but due to its highly opinionated nature, I thought it should also be here.

While I attended both public and private universities and largely believe an equal level of education can be attained at either, I do think there are noticeable differences at each. In general I think that non-elite public universities aren’t a good environment for those who lack the drive or a clear idea of what they want to do when they graduate.

There are usually a good handful of people at these universities that don’t care about going to college, what they want to do after, or generally doing well. This facilitates a pretty unbalanced atmosphere in some classes, and can hamper the quality of education. Although there were plenty of those at the private school I went to, in general people were doing things with a purpose or at least a desire because they knew that they or their family’s were paying significant money just for them to be there. Not all private schools are the same, and I still think that spending $250k on an undergraduate education is absurd, but to me, transferring after 2 years was ideal as you get your degree from the better school (if possible) and you forgo 50% of the cost. This in turn puts you in a better position to succeed professionally depending on where you end up.

The infographic below supports a lot of the points I make indirectly. For example, the time to finish as well as the perecentage of those that graduate from public schools vs. private is most likely effected by desire as well as drive to move on in life to the “real world”. 

Having said all of this, I don’t think that going to a good school = success in life. People are smarter now than at any other time in history, and the amount of information for somebody who has enough drive and can create enough structure to teach themselves is equal or better to anything you’ll get in a classroom. Graduating from college shows that you can set a long-term goal and accomplish it, allows you to experience 4 years of something that is incredibly unique and will change you forever, and gives you a piece of paper with an institutions name on it. That piece of paper is your so called ticket to getting an interview. Without it, you can try to jump the turnstiles, but you don’t stand nearly the same chance at making it on the tracks.

Note: None of this applies to ridiculous, unheard of private schools that offer no name brand recognition, or have any justification for costing upwards of $45k a year. I can’t support a decision to go to those schools unless money is no object to you or your family.

While attending a private college and being trained in the mystical art of CTRL->C / CTRL->P might leave you strangled by a debt-load larger than Spain’s, it is empirically true that salary-upside remains (almost $10,000 per year more); the following infographic lays out why the public vs private college debate continues.