whats the difference between public vs private colleges

The College Search: Public, Private, and Non-Profit — What Does it Mean?

When you start the college search process, you may find yourself asking a lot of questions about the schools you’re considering.

“Do they have the major I want?

“Does the campus offer activities I’m interested in?”

“What is campus housing like?”

What is most important to you about your college experience is very personal. To help prepare you for your college search, we’re going to discuss some major differences you’ll come across when looking at your choices for colleges and universities.

What is the Difference Between a College and a University?

The difference between a college and a university is the first question you may have when starting your college search. Understanding the difference between the two types of colleges will help you begin to decide what is most important to you when it comes to your post-secondary education.


Colleges can be public or private schools. Private colleges receive funding from private donors, tuition and fees, alumni donations, local organizations, grants, and other forms of funding. A private donor can specify if they want their donation to go toward student scholarships, building a new building on campus, or supporting a specific program or major. These donations are called endowments.

Public colleges receive funding from tuition and local and state governments. Public schools sometimes offer reduced tuition rates for students who live in that state. Public colleges can sometimes offer lower tuition and fees due to public funding.

Colleges are often smaller than universities, but this isn’t always true.


Universities are usually bigger than colleges. Universities offer bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, doctoral degrees, and sometimes associate degrees and certificate programs. Universities can also be public or private, depending on how they receive funding.

Within the university system, a school will have smaller colleges and schools. These schools hold specific programs and majors and are led by deans who may also be faculty members. Universities like University of Bridgeport offer career-focused programs that can prepare you for a career in your chosen field.

Public schools may offer more programs, but that comes with a larger class size and higher student-to-faculty ratio. The smaller class sizes of private colleges and universities give you a personalized approach to your education and more time with the expert faculty.

What’s the Difference between Public and Private Colleges and Universities?

Public vs. private refers to how a school is funded. Both colleges and Universities can be publicly funded, meaning their receive money from local governments or are privately funded through tuition, fees, donations, and grants. Both types of institutions can offer students a variety of programs and majors and help students get financial aid to help offset the costs of a college education.


For-profit schools are less common than non-profit schools. Non-profit colleges and universities operate on a different business model. Non-profits cannot make money off student tuition and fees. The money a school earns through donations, grants, tuition, and state funding must go back into the school. The money earned by a non-profit school pays for the school’s operating costs, including programs and majors, salaries for faculty and staff, and all of the support services provided to students.

Paying for college is an investment you make in yourself for your future. Knowing the difference between colleges and universities and if they are private or public schools can give you a better understanding of what you’re looking for in your college experience.

University of Bridgeport is a private, non-profit university that offers you a diverse and inclusive campus, more than 80 career-focused degree programs, flexible class schedules, and the support services you need to get through college and into a career. University of Bridgeport has an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio. At UB, you’ll never feel like a number. You’ll study closely with UB faculty, who are experts in their fields.

Reach out to us to learn more about University of Bridgeport’s career-focused degree programs. Let’s start something great together!