The term "private" simply means that the university's funding comes from tuition, investments and private donors, not from taxpayers.
A private university has several features that distinguish it from a liberal arts college or community college:
- Undergraduate and graduate student focus - unlike liberal arts colleges, universities have significant masters and doctoral programs.
- Graduate degrees - most degrees awarded from a liberal arts college are four-year bachelor's degrees; at a private university, advanced degrees such as an M.A., M.F.A., M.B.A., J.D., Ph.D., and M.D. are also common
- Medium size - No private universities are as large as some of the huge public universities, but they tend to be larger than liberal arts colleges. Total undergraduate enrollments between 5,000 and 15,000 are typical.
- Broad academic offerings - universities are typically made up of several colleges, and students can often choose courses in the liberal arts and sciences or more specialized fields such as engineering, business, health and fine arts.
- Faculty focus on research - At big-name private universities, professors are often evaluated for their research and publishing first, and teaching second. At most liberal arts colleges, teaching has the top priority.
- Residential - The majority of students at private universities live at college and attend full time. You'll find far more commuter students and part-time students at public universities and community colleges.
- Name recognition - The most prestigious and well-known schools in the world are largely private universities. Every member of the Ivy League is a private university, as are Stanford, Duke, Georgetown and Johns Hopkins.