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Private Institutions- Part I

October 12, 2011

Today, I will address some advantages and disadvantages of attending smaller, private educational institutions. These have been compiled between myself and a few passers-by as I was writing. I never really considered these things before now, but as I find a few minutes to myself here and there, I do think about some obscure things and this was one of the recent topics my mind wandered across. I love contemplating topics of interest.

Some advantages identified were:

Population. Smaller classrooms allow for closer interaction with peers and educators. The teachers know your name, you know all of your classmates, and it is easy to find friends because the population on campus is smaller than larger, state institutions. This smaller population also makes it easier to schedule time with your teachers one-on-one if you need help with course material, or just general counseling from them. The professors are more readily available because they do not have sixty students per class; they will remember you and become familiar with you and your work.

Everybody knows everybody! It makes it easier to find friends or even just a group of people to spend time with based on common interests or pursuits. The lack of overcrowding allows for closer relationships to be built sooner, and more easily maintained with both faculty and friends. This openness and ease of access to peers allows for broader knowledge of the events on campus. Here at my private college, it is relatively easy to find out exactly what is going on at this campus at any given second because there are fewer people, and therefore fewer events to attend. Even if you cannot attend all of the events because they may overlap with each other or with classes and other commitments, you still have the awareness that they occur.

Resources. Indirectly related to population, resources available for student use and disposal are far easier to come by in smaller campus communities. Our library is never overcrowded. Occasionally, it may be difficult to find a computer to work with but that is only at certain times of the day; the library is generally empty most days and most times. Even if you cannot work in the library, there are other computer labs and study rooms available all over campus. We have multiple computer labs and because of our low population, we know where all of them are located! On larger campuses, you may have to walk a mile to reach the next available computer lab or study location. Mind you, the larger schools do maintain more technology, but that is because they have more students.

Our opportunities for internships are easier to take advantage of, as well. Being in a smaller school creates lower levels of competition for internships and special interest programs during the education process, and also causes less local competition for employment after college because the job market in the nearby cities is not engorged by huge campuses with graduating classes of 500 or more. Private schools likely have higher employment rates after graduation because, comparatively, larger schools have more students to employ. So, our employment percentage is higher due to the smaller student population to secure with employment positions.

Finances. Because private institutions are smaller, they have easier access to disposable funds for projects which benefit the students and staff. Our school is building a new addition onto our already fantastic gymnasium facility with the funding they recently received from donors. It is also easier to find funding for social events on campus because there is not so much competition between clubs and organizations or lecturers who wish to speak to the campus. Smaller schools allow for less competitive financial aid packages, as well. Some campuses house over 10,000 students who all compete for financial aid packages. The less students there are competing, the higher each student’s financial package can be; loans are also easier to come by in private schools. It is easier to receive loans for private schools, too because the banks providing funding are not flooded with requests and loan applications to troll through and decide who is most worthy of the credit extension.

Involvement. The lower population makes it fairly easy to become involved in organizations or clubs on campus. It is even relatively simple to start a new club or gathering on campus based on similar interests because the population is easy to advertise to and capture their attention. It is less competitive to attain positions of leadership in the organizations you spend the majority of your time in, because they are not over saturated with members vying for the positions. Smaller campuses allow for higher levels of involvement in activities that you are not a member of because there is no requirement for commitment to the group. You have limited options to choose from so it is likely that the clubs you are interested or involved in will be the only ones you are involved in. Many students at my institution “club hop”; similar to “bar hopping” except with on-campus clubs. You try each one on for size and determine which ones are of highest interest to you and join those ones to be involved in for the remainder of your college career.

Recognition. Firstly, the name of the school may not be as widely recognized, but those who recognize it will hold it in much higher esteem because they know what it cost to attend and that the course material was more focused. People who hear the name “Penn State” usually equate it with cheapness and its huge population. Penn State is known well for its sports teams, mainly the football team. Conversely, “Harvard” usually draws gasps of recognition for the costs, competitiveness of entry, and standards of student evaluation. The name says it all in many cases. Having private school status also allows for the course programs to be more closely tailored to what the students need to learn to be successful. Even at liberal arts colleges, the material can be molded to the students if there are fewer students for whom classes need molding.

Recognition between faculty and peers is easily found because there are so few students that it is frequently the case that you know approximately a third of your entire school by name at a private institution. You may not be friends with all of them, or know the intimate details of their social lives, but you know them and recognize them. Recognition for contributions happens frequently, as well. Due to low population, again, it is normal for students to take leadership positions and initiate new programs or offer to lead existing programs. The acknowledgment for these achievements is not lost on the staff and administration. Speaking of those in charge, private schools allow for closer relations to your administration. When the President of the college is within reach and visible on campus, you know you are in a good quality school. Most public and state schools have administrative officers who are never seen and you are lucky if you know their names. Private schools have the opportunity to know, not only their names, but their families and friends. We have the opportunity to make friends with our administrative staff. The multiple Deans and President are highly visible figures on our campus and they know us as well as we know them! Our President, dining staff, and other staff (not faculty) generally greet students by name because they are familiar with us. Our personal police force is also friendly. Because the school is so small, we do not need more than ten officers employed by the school. I do not mean ten per day, I mean ten officers, total. Those of us who have met the officers know most of them by name, and given a few weeks of consistent contact, they will learn your name and dorm location, as well.

Pros. The pros of attending a small, private institution are many. But, most revolve around the lower rates of enrollment, lower population, less intensive competition on all fronts, and the ability to be involved and recognized for everything you do and contribute on campus.

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