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Public Versus Private Higher Education Institutions

The terms public and private represent one of the most basic categorizations in the field of higher education. At bottom, the distinction provides some indication of the entity that owns and controls an institution. A public institution is owned by the state and controlled in some fashion by the government, whether through direct authority over its day-to-day affairs or through a looser form of coordination. By contrast, a private institution is privately owned and privately controlled. Other characteristics that often factor into the public/private framework include financing mechanisms, whereby public institutions traditionally depend upon government funding for significant portions of their annual operating budgets, and mission-specific products, as in whether the goods that the institution produces are chiefly of value to the general public (e.g., ...

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