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You certainly can end up paying less at a private university than at a public university. One shouldn't dismiss private universities out of hand as being too expensive when considering where to go to school or to send their children.

However, having gone to UCLA and worked at its rival private university, I know firsthand that some students were leaving the university with student loan debt equal to the total I spent on my education. And while the tuition at UC schools hasn't significantly changed since I graduated, the tuition at the private school increased significantly every semester I worked there. The biannual/annual tuition increases that inevitably come with private education is something that also needs to be considered.

And much of this tuition increase isn't necessary. Part of my job was to make sure that come June, the end of the fiscal year, that my department had spent all of its budget so that it didn't have its budget cut the following year. My first year I had to creatively spend $20,000 in June, and my second year I had to spend 30,000. Instead of buying nice reasonably priced sofas for the new faculty lounge, I bought a nice $10,000 leather sofa plus $6000 in accompanying furniture. Much like Fidelity funds, much of the expense of private universities doesn't in any way increase the value of the education received.

And yes, I'm certain that this happens at public universities also, I just don't believe it happens at the level I saw while working at the private university.
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