posted 2012-09-21 18:50:24

Public vs. Private

Why Hunter was the right choice 

Melissa Nezhnick

Contributing Writer

Whether you’re a freshmen or senior at Hunter College, at one point or another we were all high school seniors. Looming over our heads was a choice that would ultimately shape our future. So, here lies the question—did we make the right decision by choosing a CUNY College instead of its counterpart, a private college? Are private schools really the best option, or are students just over-paying for an overpriced name? Do private college graduates actually benefit any more than we Hunterites? Before making our initial decision, I’m certain that all of us at one point contemplated going to a private college. But at what cost? Today, the tuition—excluding housing, meals, books transportation, etc.—for a CUNY college is around $4,900, whereas a private college costs anywhere from $26,300 to $29,000. Of course tuition is always rising, for both private and public colleges, but the gap between the two is ever-present.
Most, though not all, Hunter students are able to pay off their tuition with the help of grants and/or aids. In 2009, College Board put out a report listing the tuition fees as well as financial aid being offered for private and public colleges. Private colleges, on average, offer around $14,400 in aid, whereas a CUNY college doles out an average of $5,400. Clearly, private colleges give more money, but you must take into consideration that their tuition is more than tripled in comparison to CUNY’s. Even after receiving financial aid, most students are still forced to take out loans in order to attend a private college.
It is safe to say that, for the most part, every college student wants to graduate debt-free, and considering tuition and debt, it appears as though going to CUNY was the better choice. But what about all those rants by politicians emphasizing smaller class sizes? In private colleges, a typical class might consist of no more than twenty students, in comparison to Hunter, where classrooms usually have more than twenty students. Students in private colleges are also more likely to get their first pick of classes because of the lack of competition amongst students, while CUNY students often fight minor battles for their respective courses. Likewise, private colleges are known to have less bureaucratic red tape, which means that students receive more individual attention.

In today’s culture, we perceive private colleges to provide a better quality of education. But, before anything can be weighed, we need to first set a definition for the term “quality education.” UNICEF published a paper, Defining Quality in Education, in which that very topic is dissected and defined. According to the paper, a proper education creates “[students] who are [...] ready to participate and learn, and supported in learning by their families and communities; Environments that are healthy, safe, protective and gender-sensitive, and provide adequate resources and facilities; [...] Outcomes that encompass knowledge, skills and attitudes, and are linked to national goals for education and positive participation in society.” In essence, a quality education is an environment in which the students are eager to learn and a capable teacher is able to teach.
Of course, no college will ever admit to providing low-quality education, but CUNY schools are supported by the government, which means money is always being pumped into our school. If over 50% of Hunter college students were to drop out tomorrow, no one would care because money would still be circulated around. But what about those private colleges which depend on students? It is ultimately the students who are paying to keep the private schools afloat. If the amount of students decreases, so does the supply of money. Although these colleges are meant to educate the willing, their main priority is to stay afloat. This leaves us with a horrifying thought, which might in fact be true. Schools, in order to keep their students happy and bring in a constant flow of money, may resort to unethical means, ranging from inflating grades to watering down the course material.

The quality of education is muddled when it comes to private colleges. Are students really paying for an education or are they only seen as a money source? Of course, we can’t say that is entirely the case, but it’s an idea which can’t be overlooked. In CUNY schools, however, the funds are always coming in, which means that it is solely up to the students to make something of themselves.
With all of that in mind, everything bubbles down to money. What matters most to all graduating students is the ability to attain a job. Do private college graduates get better salaries then Hunter graduates? As of August 26, 2012, on average, a Hunter graduate’s starting salary is around $45,500. As of August 28, 2012, the starting salary is $43,000 for a graduate from Adelphi (a private college in Nassau County, NY), or $45,100 for a graduate of Fordham University (Bronx, NY).

It may come as a surprise, but Hunter graduates have many potential job opportunities. According to data collector site College Prowler, firms such as Allstate Insurance, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, Mayo Clinic, Ernst & Young, General Electric and others have all hired and are hiring Hunter students. We have a wide array of opportunities, even compared to graduates of private colleges—the list provided for a Fordham graduate, for instance, consisted of only a few big-name firms.

Personally, I see no reason to pay extra money and fall into debt, only to earn the same wages as a private college graduate. Not only are CUNY Hunter graduates selected to work for top firms, we are also receiving a great education from professors who are passionate about their work.