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What Small, Private Colleges and Universities Can Offer You

Get Your Facts Straight.

  • Students at private institutions are graduating while other students are still hitting the books. In fact, studies have shown that, on average, students attending private, not-for-profit institutions graduate six months earlier than those attending public institutions.
  • The results are in. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), private schools, on average, have a smaller number of student enrollments, smaller class sizes and lower teacher to student ratios.
  • What does size have to do with it?  Research supports that overall learning techniques and skills are established by placing students in small groups in which close working relationships between teachers and students can develop.
  • Despite the rising cost of higher education, help is on the way. Nine out of ten students attending private colleges were granted financial aid packages in the 2003-2004 academic year.

Let’s Crunch the Numbers!

  • The sheer number of students enrolling in institutions of higher education has steadily increased over the past decade. At a rate of 21 percent, college enrollment numbers have jumped from 14.3 million to 17.3 million between the years of 1994-2004.
  • What is the number breakdown between private and public institutions?  In fall 2003, thirty-nine percent of institutions, in majority private institutions, had fewer than 1,000 students; however, these campuses’ enrollments consisted of only 4 percent of all college students. Twelve percent of public campuses enrolled 10,000 or more students and accounted for 54 percent of total college enrollment.

What Makes Private Institutions Stand Out?

Closer relationship with Faculty: At large, public institutions, faculty members often instruct a large number of students. At smaller, private institutions, students are able to build closer relationships with faculty.

Easier to get in involved: The community environment offered by a smaller college allows students to comfortably and easily find their niche in student life. The same opportunities, such as campus organizations and study abroad programs, exist—just without the same entrance requirements and competition factors. In fact, more students hold leadership positions at smaller universities.

Tight-knit campus community:  The number of students attending a public university can be upward of 20,000+ students—making it very difficult for students to establish personal connections between one another, as well as with faculty and staff. A smaller student body can offer students increased opportunities to build true friendships that last a lifetime.

Connection to alumni: The unique experience offered by a small college often touches the lives of students for generations to come. As graduates of smaller institutions, students are inducted into a community of fellow alumni who are there to guide their next steps into the working world.

Focused on you:  The attention given to each student at a smaller college allows instructors to gage progress, recognize academic struggles and move to correct problems. In other words, you, the student, always come first.

What’s it Going to Cost Me?

The fact of the matter is that small, private colleges do not receive the financial support of government funding. Therefore, these smaller institutions rely on private funding and higher tuition fees to meet financial needs. For example, the average tuition at a private college in 2004-2005 was estimated at $26,489 at a four-year institution and $19,899 at a two-year institution. Meanwhile, tuition at public institutions in the 2004-2005 school year averaged to be $9,877. While the disparity in these numbers may appear intimidating at first, there is hope in sight.

Fortunately, private colleges tend to provide the most comprehensive financial aid packages available at the higher education level. Therefore, before rushing to a decision, consider these facts:

  • In 2003-2004, half (50 percent) of all undergraduates enrolled in private, not-for-profit 4-year institutions received institutional grants, 28 percent received federal grants, 22 percent received state-funded grants and 23 percent received grants from other sources, such as private organizations or employers.
  • Undergraduate, institutional grants for the academic year 2003-2004 averaged to be approximately $7,100 for private, not-for-profit 4-year institutions. Federal grants, on average, were estimated at $3,000, while the average state grant was $2,800. Outside grant resources totaled to an average of $2,900.
  • Grant percentages at private, for-profit institutions fluctuated slightly from private, not-for-profit colleges. During the 2003-2004 academic year, 53 percent (over half) of undergraduates were awarded federal grants by private, for-profit institutions. The breakdown of grant funds is as follows: 8 percent received state grants, 7 percent received institutional grants and 13 percent received outside grants.

In short, there are a lot of options out for funding private college tuition. It is inevitable that one or more will work for you.

How Does Distance Learning Come into the Mix?

The field of distance learning has grown in leaps and bounds since its inception. Online courses, in their original form, were broadcast via satellite television or two-way video and audio systems. By the beginning of the nineties, online enrollments across the nation totaled less than 200,000 college students. By mid 2005, the number of enrollments in distance education programs had reached nearly 3,000,000 college students. Over time, the technology changed allowing more students to easily access courses. Thus, online courses migrated to the Internet and instruction began through learning management systems.

Over time, distance learning has presented several new possibilities to education. Convenience and flexibility have consistently shown up at the top of students’ priority lists. When distance education began to cater to these priorities, a diverse group of students began to enroll in online courses.  Today, online learning attracts the interests of graduate, undergraduate and non-traditional students alike. The result, according to the U.S. Department of Education, was the establishment of distance learning programs at 56 percent of all 4 and 2 year institutions in 2000-2001. Forty percent of all institutions offered distance education courses at the undergraduate level and 22 percent at the graduate level. In more recent years, these numbers have jumped across the board.

As the distance learning industry grows, its benefits to students continue to increase as well. The following is a list of the most common advantages of distance education:

  • Flexibility, Flexibility, Flexibility
  • Learning at your own pace
  • No commute
  • Enhanced interaction with faculty and fellow students
  • Easy access to content materials or class archives
  • Greater ability to reach a global audience
  • Access to a wide variety of academic research and supplementary resources
  • Experience with telecommunications and other technology

Distance Learning Makes Its Mark.

In the January edition of USDLA Today, distance learning was designated as appealing to “every imaginable kind of student.”  Online education has managed to open itself up to a variety of ages, ethnicities, learning styles, degree levels and locations. Convenience has proven to be one of the highest advantages of this new mode of education. Enabling students to mold education to their personal schedules, distance learning is being embraced by waves of individuals who thirst for more knowledge.   The USDLA Today article continues on to report, “It [distance education] provides huge advantages for working adults who can’t fit traditional classroom schedules into work and family life. Students who may be very quiet in a classroom may be very participatory online given the time to thoughtfully respond to questions.”

Indeed, online instruction and distance education have enjoyed great success in recent years. As more students enroll in distance education programs, even more information about online education’s benefits will come to light. In fact, in response to a recent NCES survey, participants of various distance learning programs identified several reasons for enrolling in an online or distance learning program. Their reasons included:

  • To refine and increase professional skills related to field
  • To learn new skills related to field
  • To gain additional education required for advancement or promotion
  • To change career fields
  • To achieve certification or licensure in specific area of profession

Sources:
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2005). 2003-04 National postsecondary student aid study (NPSAS: 04) undergraduate financial aid estimates for 2003-04 by type of institution. Retrieved June 6, 2007, from http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2005163

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2003). The condition of education 2003. Retrieved June 6, 2007, from http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/2003/section3/indicator21.asp

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2003). Distance education at degree-granting postsecondary institutions: 2000-2001. Retrieved June 6, 2007, from http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/peqis/publications/2003017/

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