Private versus Public Universities

Public universities are government-subsidized, like most universities in Canada, while private universities rely on tuition fees, endowments, and private donations to cover operating costs.

There is not necessarily a difference between the two models academically, although private institutions tend to have smaller student populations and thus smaller class sizes. Public universities have lower tuition fees for in-state residents, and charge more for students who reside out-of-state or internationally. Some public universities that attract many Canadian students include the State University of New York (SUNY) system and the University of California system. Public universities in Florida are a popular choice for Canadian students because of the Florida-Canada Linkage Institute, which provides out-of-state tuition waivers for outstanding Canadian students.

Private universities have no residency-based tuition differential and tend to have more financial aid for international applicants. Examples of private universities include the famed Ivy League, as well as Stanford, MIT, and many other excellent schools throughout the country.

We encourage to look beyond the simple “public versus private” distinction, as they can receive top-notch educations at both. They should focus more on the particulars of each university—financial aid, school size, and campus culture.

Ivy League

The Ivy League schools are some of the most prestigious private universities in the United States. These two words have taken on a life of their own. Many think that “Ivy League” just means “hard to get in to,” but here is a little history lesson.

The term actually refers to a sports conference of eight private institutions in the northeastern area of the United States: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University. Of course, the term has become synonymous with academic prestige and selectivity (Harvard admits just below 6 percent of its undergraduate applicants each year), but not all highly selective or rigorous schools belong to the Ivy League. For example, MIT and Stanford University, which currently admits an even smaller percentage of applicants than Harvard does, are both prestigious and selective, but neither belongs to the Ivy League.

Some schools are considered “Public Ivies.” These are not part of the official Ivy League; rather, they are among the most prestigious public universities in the country.

The original eight top ranking Public Ivies as identified by Moll are College of William & Mary, Miami University, University of California (campuses as of 1985), University of Michigan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Texas at Austin, University of Vermont, and University of Virginia.

Moll’s original list has been expanded upon to include further prestigious public universities of notable rank listed at Ivy League Online. Greens’ Guides to The Public Ivies: America’s Flagship Public Universities defines an even more extensive list of significant Public Ivies.