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.

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

    $<1,000 - $


    #1

    Stanford University

    Stanford, CA

    Graduation Rate

    94%

    Enrollment

    17,249

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $53529

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $53529

    A private institution located in Stanford, California, Stanford University educates students through multiple programs. Students leave the school with experience and credentials that prepare them for the workforce. Degree-seekers benefit from academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. The school boasts several programs that 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. The school offers both academic and technical programs. Depending on their program, enrollees complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. Stanford University has been accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission, an independent accrediting body.

    #2

    Harvard University

    Cambridge, MA

    Graduation Rate

    97%

    Enrollment

    31,655

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $51925

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $51925

    A top-ranked school, Harvard University enrolls learners in programs from its campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The institution's faculty brings expertise in multiple fields. The programs offer academic and technical tracks to help students meet their career goals. Completing a program can take anywhere from a few months to seven years depending on degree or certificate type and whether the student chooses part-time or full-time enrollment. Applicants may qualify for a test score waiver. A test score waiver makes it easier to enroll. Admission advisors can provide additional information on submitting an application. Financial aid helps enrollees cover their educational expenses. Harvard University has received accreditation from the New England Commission on Higher Education, an independent accrediting body.

    #3

    University of Chicago

    Chicago, IL

    Graduation Rate

    95%

    Enrollment

    17,452

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $60552

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $60552

    A private institution located in Chicago, Illinois, University of Chicago offers multiple programs. Students leave the school with credentials that prepare them for the workplace. Learners enroll in academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. The school boasts several programs that appear in national rankings. The institution's average cost per credit is unknown. Students attending the accredited institution may qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Learners choose from academic and technical majors at the school. Depending on their program, enrollees complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. University of Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    #4

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Cambridge, MA

    Graduation Rate

    95%

    Enrollment

    11,520

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $53790

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $53790

    Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Massachusetts Institute of Technology operates as a private institution. The institution's faculty brings expertise in multiple fields. The school's academic and technical programs prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. The cost per credit is unknown. Enrollees at the accredited institution qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Students graduate from the school at a rate of 95%. The rate of admission for the school is unknown. Prospective students can contact the admissions office for more information about applying. The school holds accreditation from the New England Commission on Higher Education.

    #5

    Princeton University

    Princeton, NJ

    Graduation Rate

    98%

    Enrollment

    8,419

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $52800

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $52800

    From its campus in Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University grants degrees and certificates as a top school. Instructors draw on their expertise in diverse fields. The programs offer academic and technical tracks to help learners meet their career goals. Check the program website for specifics on the degree- or certificate-completion timeline. Some programs may offer test-optional admission policies. This makes it easier to enroll. Admission advisors can provide more information on the application process. Degree-seekers also use financial aid to cover their educational costs. The school holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

    #6

    Yale University

    New Haven, CT

    Graduation Rate

    97%

    Enrollment

    13,609

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $55500

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $55500

    From its campus in New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University offers programs as a private institution. With both academic and technical programs, the school helps learners reach their career goals. Students strengthen their knowledge of the field by completing coursework. Depending on the program, applicants may need to submit test scores. These policies make it easier to apply. Learners benefit from support services, which include tutoring and career counseling. Data on the school's average cost per credit is currently unavailable. Learners at the accredited school qualify for federal financial aid programs such as the Pell Grant. The school holds accreditation from the New England Commission on Higher Education, an independent accrediting body.

    #7

    University of Pennsylvania

    Philadelphia, PA

    Graduation Rate

    96%

    Enrollment

    26,675

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $57770

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $57770

    University of Pennsylvania offers programs from its campus in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Students learn from experts in multiple disciplines. Academic and technical programs help students reach their professional goals. Consult the institution's website to find information on the typical timeline for program completion. Applicants may qualify for a standardized test score waiver. A waiver makes it easier to enroll. The admissions department provides more information about the application process. At the accredited institution, students also qualify for financial aid to pay for school. University of Pennsylvania holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

    #8

    Columbia University in the City of New York

    New York, NY

    Graduation Rate

    95%

    Enrollment

    31,456

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $61788

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $61788

    Columbia University in the City of New York ranks as a top school from its campus in New York, New York. Enrollees study with experts in many different fields. The school's academic and technical tracks help students meet diverse career goals. Consult the institution's website to find information on the typical timeline for program completion. Some programs may offer test-optional admission policies. Students may find it easier to apply without a test score requirement. The admissions department can provide additional resources on applying. Financial aid helps enrollees cover their educational expenses. Columbia University in the City of New York holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, an independent accrediting body.

    #9

    Brown University

    Providence, RI

    Graduation Rate

    96%

    Enrollment

    10,333

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $58404

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $58404

    Located in Rhode Island, Brown University enrolls students in 265 programs. The institution offers top-ranked programs that provide a rigorous course of study. The average student-to-faculty ratio is currently unavailable. Data on the amount of aid students receive per year on average is unavailable. The private school reports a 96% graduation rate. Job seekers often benefit from hands-on experience, which makes them more competitive job candidates. The admission rate is unknown at this time. Some programs provide a test-optional admission option. The admission department can provide more information about application requirements and start dates.

    #10

    Dartmouth College

    Hanover, NH

    Graduation Rate

    95%

    Enrollment

    6,606

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $57638

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $57638

    Dartmouth College enrolls students at its Hanover, New Hampshire campus as a private institution. Learners take courses with experts in diverse disciplines. Students who complete an academic or technical program often enter the workforce right away. The school's cost per credit is unknown. At the accredited school, students qualify for financial aid, including federal loans, scholarships, and grants. The private school reports a graduation rate of 95%. The institution's admission rate is currently unknown. Prospective applicants can contact the admissions office for more information about applying. Dartmouth College is accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education, an independent accrediting body.

    #11

    Heritage Christian University

    Florence, AL

    Graduation Rate

    80%

    Enrollment

    86

    Format

    Online

    In-State Tuition

    $11532

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $11532

    Located in Florence, Alabama, Heritage Christian University enrolls students as a private institution. Students learn from experts in multiple disciplines. The college offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. The amount students pay per credit is unknown at this time. Students at the accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid, including grants and loans. Enrollees graduate from the school at a rate of 80%. The school's admission rate is unavailable. The admission department can provide more information about application requirements and start dates. The school holds accreditation from the Association for Bibical Higher Educaiton.

    #12

    Bowdoin College

    Brunswick, ME

    Graduation Rate

    95%

    Enrollment

    1,835

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $56350

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $56350

    From its campus in Maine, Bowdoin College enrolls students in 44 programs. Students choose from rigorous, top-ranked programs at the school. The average student-to-faculty ratio is unavailable. The average amount of aid awarded to students is unknown. The private institution reports a graduation rate of 95%. Graduates often benefit from hands-on experience, which makes them more competitive candidates on the job market. The school's admission rate is currently unknown. Many schools no longer require test scores for admission. The admissions office provides more information about application requirements.

    #13

    The Juilliard School

    New York, NY

    Graduation Rate

    96%

    Enrollment

    960

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $47370

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $47370

    Located in New York, New York, The Juilliard School educates students as a private institution. The college offers academic and technical programs to help learners reach their educational goals. The institution offers coursework that gives students the chance to gain relevant knowledge and skills. Applicants may qualify for test-optional admissions. These policies make it easier to apply. Learners benefit from support services like tutoring and career counseling. The cost per credit is unknown. The accredited school qualifies for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. The school holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

    #14

    Northwestern University

    Evanston, IL

    Graduation Rate

    94%

    Enrollment

    22,448

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $56691

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $56691

    A private institution located in Evanston, Illinois, Northwestern University enrolls learners in multiple programs. The school's accredited programs prepare learners for the workforce. The institution offers academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Many of the school's programs appear in national rankings. The cost per credit is unknown. 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 program, enrollees complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    #15

    Duke University

    Durham, NC

    Graduation Rate

    95%

    Enrollment

    16,686

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $58031

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $58031

    A private institution in Durham, North Carolina, Duke University offers a variety of degree and certificate programs. Learners study with experts in many different fields. Students who complete a technical or academic program may enter the workforce. The cost per credit is unknown. Enrollees at the accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid, including grants and loans. The private institution reports a graduation rate of 95%. The school's admission rate is currently unknown. Contact the admissions department for more details about application requirements. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #16

    Cornell University

    Ithaca, NY

    Graduation Rate

    95%

    Enrollment

    24,027

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $57222

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $57222

    From its campus in Ithaca, New York, Cornell University educates college students as a private institution. The school offers academic and technical programs to help learners reach their educational goals. The institution's degree and certificate programs offer coursework that prepares learners for a career in their field. Some applicants qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. Test-optional policies make it easier to apply. The school supports learners with tutoring and career services. The cost per credit is unknown. Learners at the accredited school often fund their education with federal aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Cornell University holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

    #17

    California Institute of Technology

    Pasadena, CA

    Graduation Rate

    94%

    Enrollment

    2,237

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $54600

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $54600

    California Institute of Technology, a private organization located in Pasadena, California, offers multiple programs. Graduates leave the school prepared for the workforce. Degree-seekers benefit from academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Many of the school's degrees make national rankings. The amount students pay per credit is unknown at this time. Degree-seekers at this accredited institution may qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Learners choose from academic and technical majors at the school. Depending on their major, learners complete fundamentals courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. California Institute of Technology has been accredited by 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

    69%

    Enrollment

    173

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $2900

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $2900

    Curtis Institute of Music is a private institution located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Experts in diverse disciplines teach at the institution. The school offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for a successful career. Information on the school's cost per credit is unavailable. Students at the accredited institution qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Enrollees graduate from the school at a rate of 69%. The school's admission rate is unknown at this time. The admissions office provides more information about application requirements and start dates. Curtis Institute of Music is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

    #19

    University of Notre Dame

    Notre Dame, IN

    Graduation Rate

    96%

    Enrollment

    12,683

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $55553

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $55553

    University of Notre Dame, located in Notre Dame, Indiana, enrolls students as a private institution. The school offers academic and technical programs to help learners reach their educational goals. Students strengthen their knowledge of the field by completing coursework. Applicants may qualify for a test score waiver. The waiver makes it simpler to enroll. The school supports learners with academic help and career services. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. Learners at the accredited school qualify for federal student aid programs. University of Notre Dame is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

    #20

    Vanderbilt University

    Nashville, TN

    Graduation Rate

    93%

    Enrollment

    13,131

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $52070

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $52070

    Located in Nashville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt University attracts students with their well-regarded programs. Students study with experts in many different fields. With academic and technical tracks, the school's programs help learners meet their professional goals. Academic programs can take anywhere from a few months to several years to complete, depending on degree or certificate type. Some programs may operate with a test-optional policy for admissions. A test score waiver makes it easier to apply. The admissions department provides additional resources on applying to the school. At the accredited institution, learners also qualify for financial aid to pay for school. Vanderbilt University has received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #21

    Webb Institute

    Glen Cove, NY

    Graduation Rate

    81%

    Enrollment

    102

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $51690

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $51690

    Webb Institute enrolls students at its Glen Cove, New York campus as a private institution. Students learn from experts in multiple disciplines. Students who complete a technical or academic program may enter the workforce. The amount students pay per credit on average is currently unknown. Students at the accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid programs, including the Pell Grant. The private school reports a graduation rate of 81%. The school's admission rate is unavailable. The admission department can provide more information about application requirements. Webb Institute is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

    #22

    Barnard College

    New York, NY

    Graduation Rate

    92%

    Enrollment

    2,631

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $57668

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $57668

    A top-ranked school, Barnard College enrolls learners in programs from its campus in New York, New York. Instructors bring expertise in their fields. With academic and technical tracks, the school offers programs for students with a variety of professional goals. Academic programs generally take anywhere from a few months to several years to complete depending on degree or certificate type. Many schools no longer require admissions tests such as ACT or SAT. Flexible admission score requirements make it easier to enroll. The admissions department provides more information about the application process. Students also use financial aid to pay for their college degree or certificate. Barnard College has been accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

    #23

    Washington University in St Louis

    Saint Louis, MO

    Graduation Rate

    95%

    Enrollment

    16,191

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $55292

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $55292

    Located in Saint Louis, Missouri, Washington University in St Louis is a private institution that offers multiple programs. The school offers programs that prepare learners for the workforce. Learners benefit from academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Many of the school's degrees make national rankings. Students pay a per-credit fee of around 2556 at the school. 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 school. Depending on their program, enrollees complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. Washington University in St Louis holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.

    #24

    Swarthmore College

    Swarthmore, PA

    Graduation Rate

    94%

    Enrollment

    1,594

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $54656

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $54656

    A private institution, Swarthmore College grants degrees and certificates from its campus in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. Enrollees study with experts in many different fields. The college offers academic and technical programs that 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 student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. The institution reports a graduation rate of 94%. We do not currently have data on the school's admission rate. Applicants can reach out to the admission department to learn more about enrolling. Swarthmore College has received accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

    #25

    Rice University

    Houston, TX

    Graduation Rate

    93%

    Enrollment

    7,282

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $49112

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $49112

    Rice University, located in Houston, Texas, offers 150 programs for students. Students benefit from rigorous programs that rank among the best in the nation. The student-to-faculty ratio is unknown. How much aid students receive on average is currently unknown. The school reports a 93% graduation rate for its programs. The institution understands that real-world experience helps job seekers enter the workforce. The rate of admission for the school is unknown. Some programs offer a waiver for standardized test scores. The admissions office provides more information about application requirements and start dates.

    #26

    Georgetown University

    Washington, DC

    Graduation Rate

    95%

    Enrollment

    19,593

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $56058

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $56058

    A private institution, Georgetown University enrolls students from its campus in Washington, District of Columbia. Enrollees study with experts in many different fields. The school offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. Learners can expect to spend around 1885 per credit at the school. Enrollees at the accredited institution qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Students earn their bachelor's degree from the school at a rate of 95%. The school's admission rate is currently unknown. Contact the admissions department for more details about application requirements. Georgetown University has received accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

    #27

    Pomona College

    Claremont, CA

    Graduation Rate

    93%

    Enrollment

    1,637

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $54762

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $54762

    Located in California, Pomona College offers 52 academic programs. The institution's many rigorous academic programs rank among the best in the nation. The average student-to-faculty ratio is unknown. How much aid students receive on average is currently unknown. Students in the school's programs graduate at a rate of 93%. Students should explore how workplace experience makes them more competitive employee candidates. The institution's admission rate is currently unknown. Some applicants qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. Prospective students can contact the admissions department for more details about application requirements.

    #28

    Bates College

    Lewiston, ME

    Graduation Rate

    91%

    Enrollment

    1,820

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $55683

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $55683

    From its campus in Lewiston, Maine, Bates College grants degrees and certificates as a top school. Enrollees study with experts in many different fields. The school offers academic and technical tracks to help learners meet a variety of professional goals. Academic programs generally take anywhere from a few months to several years to complete depending on degree or certificate type. Some programs may operate with a test-optional policy for admissions. These policies make it easier to enroll. The admissions department provides more information about the application process. Degree-seekers at the accredited institution also qualify for financial aid to cover costs. Bates College is accredited by the New England Commission on Higher Education.

    #29

    Williams College

    Williamstown, MA

    Graduation Rate

    95%

    Enrollment

    2,150

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $57280

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $57280

    From its Williamstown, Massachusetts campus, Williams College offers 38 program options for students. The institution's programs offer a rigorous course of study. The student-to-faculty ratio is currently unavailable. The average amount of aid awarded per student is not available. Students earn their degree from the school at a rate of 95%. The institution's commitment to experiential learning helps graduates become more competitive in the job market. The school's admission rate is unavailable. Some programs operate with a test-optional policy for admissions. The admission department can provide more information about application requirements and start dates.

    #30

    Franklin W Olin College of Engineering

    Needham, MA

    Graduation Rate

    96%

    Enrollment

    386

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $55500

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $55500

    From its campus in Needham, Massachusetts, Franklin W Olin College of Engineering awards degrees and certificates as a top school. Enrollees take courses with experts in diverse disciplines. The school offers academic and technical tracks to help learners meet a variety of professional goals. Completing a program can take anywhere from a few months to seven years depending on degree or certificate type and whether the student chooses part-time or full-time enrollment. Some programs offer a waiver for standardized test scores. This makes it easier to enroll. Admission advisors can help applicants complete the process. At the accredited institution, learners also qualify for financial aid to pay for school. 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

    Tight-knit alumni associationsMore grants and scholarships available to students because of large endowment fundsSmaller classesAlternative teaching methods and creative class structuresReligious-influenced education that may suit a student's learning preferencesHigher prestige and quality of education, depending on the schoolSmall private colleges may have less competition for popular courses

    Cons of Private Schools

    Smaller campus life and less social opportunitiesHigher tuitionLess diversityLacks state or federal regulationNot every student prefers religious-required curriculumMore selective admissions with lower admission rateFewer 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.