The term "public" indicates that the university's funding comes partly from state taxpayers. This is not true for private universities.
A public university has a few features that distinguish it from private universities:
- Size - The size of public universities varies widely. The largest universities in the country are all public (for example, UT Austin and OSU).
- Division I Athletics - The great majority of Division I athletic teams are fielded by public universities.
- Low Cost - Public universities typically have tuition that is considerably lower than private universities, especially for in-state students.
- Commuter and Part-time Students - Public universities tend to have more commuter and part-time students than private colleges and universities.
- The Downside - Read the profiles of universities carefully. In many cases, public universities have lower graduation rates, higher student / faculty ratios and more loan aid (thus, more student debt) than private universities.
Public universities share many features with private universities:
- Undergraduate and graduate student focus - large public universities have significant masters and doctoral programs.
- Graduate degrees - at large public universities, advanced degree offerings such as an M.A., M.F.A., M.B.A., J.D., Ph.D., and M.D. are common
- Broad academic offerings - students can often choose courses in the liberal arts, sciences, engineering, business, health and fine arts.
- Faculty focus on research - At big-name public universities, professors are often evaluated for their research and publishing first, and teaching second. Teaching may take priority at branch campuses and regional public universities.