3 Distinctions Between Universities, Explained

Updated on August 26, 2020

The search for a university can feel, at times, overwhelming and all-encompassing. With so much information available on the Internet and in books, it’s easy to get lost in the data and lose sight of the broader categories of universities. Luckily, this quick guide will give you the rundown on broad categories of universities, which will help clarify the distinctions that separate them. 

Before jumping in, however: it’s worth noting that all the categories of universities below represent accredited universities. This means that they all have the power to hand you a diploma after you finish your degree. It’s extremely important that you make sure you’re attending an accredited university. You need to check, for example, that Grand Canyon University accreditation is valid and real. You should also consider checking for Grand Canyon University accreditation professionals to ensure and review your own research. 

1. Public vs. Private Universities 

Public schools are funded primarily by state governments, though typically with some money from the federal government, as well. In contrast, private schools support themselves through their students’ tuition and endowment funds. Endowment funds typically come from charity. 

2. Two-Year vs. Four-Year Universities 

A two-year school is called a community college, and it generally offers general courses that can transfer to a four-year university, if desired. The completion of a two-year program results in an Associate’s degree, while a four-year program earns you a full Bachelor’s degree. 

3. Non-Profit vs. For-Profit Universities 

Most universities and community colleges are nonprofit, which means there’s little financial incentive to the school earning money — any extra revenue has to be reinvested into the school itself. For-profit universities, in contrast, seek to maximize profit to return to its shareholders. 

While the nuances of American higher education can feel daunting, hopefully this brief guide clarifies for you some of the differences between words commonly thrown around on college board sites and discussion forums. With a little hard work and a bit of research, you’ll find yourself wiser by several degrees when it comes to college in no time.

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