I encourage parents to apply to both public and private universities. This short ebook explains the process of how to find a college: Finding a College You Love
Why apply to both public and private school, though, for Christian parents? It's complicated, so pay close attention.
The cost of private Christian university, private secular university, and public university can be the same, when you take into consideration scholarships. The reason for that is that private colleges have lots of money to give away, and public colleges are tied to state budgets - which means they have no money to give away. But if you don't get any scholarships, then public university is the most affordable option.
At a Christian university, the professors might not have the same views as the parents, the curriculum may not match your beliefs, and the student population may not be Christian at all. Frankly, many parents send kids to Christian college hoping it will straighten them out. It can be very confusing for a young Christian to see a different view of Christianity that is nothing like what their parents taught them, and see kids in college who say they are Christian but don't act like it.
On the other side, at a public or private secular school, a young person expects to encounter mostly secular professors and students. In order to find a faith-based family, they understand quickly that they need to find a group of like-minded people in an activity or church group. It can be less of a shock to expect secular people to act like secular people. So if secular college is more affordable, and can meet your needs, it might not be as horrible as you expect. Just find a Christian group for your child to join.
Considering both sides of the story, then, you try to find an environment that is wholesome enough to support independent living. Don't look just at the name of the college, for sure! Texas Christian University is often listed as one of the top 10 party schools! The name means nothing! Visit each college to see if it's wholesome enough, even though it's not Christian. For example, when my husband had his high school reunion, it was at a bar. We didn't hesitate, we attended, and it didn't hurt me. At the same time, I wouldn't want to LIVE in a bar, day in and day out, for four years.
When your child attends college, they are actually an adult, and adults live and work in secular environments all the time, without facing serious consequences. Think of the Apostle Paul. He worked as a tent-maker, basically interacting with tradesmen. My husband worked in marine construction and with long shore-men, who actually do swear like long shore-men, and I'm sure that's what Paul experienced. The Apostle Paul also mixed it up with the elite and educated Romans - much like the secular colleges of their time. And he interacted with the religious educators of the day (the Sadducees and Pharisees) discussing the nuances of faith and religion. When your child is an adult, they are called to do as Paul did - go into all the world. And whether that means the trades, Christian college, or secular university, adults are called to go into all the world.
Remember, it's not that homeschooling has changed, or that the world has changed. We let them go into the world because our child has changed. They are adults, and, hopefully, give up their childish ways.
There is one important tip for college that will help. Research shows that if students find a faith-group within the first 3 weeks of school, they are more likely to retain their faith, regardless of whether the college is secular or Christian. Spend some time looking at each college, making sure it's wholesome enough to live there. And, as I've mentioned, find a group of like-minded people, so your child has a group to join when they first arrive on campus.
When visiting and collecting information, find out if your university has a local student ministry program to join. Some of the well-established programs are InterVarsity, CRU (previously called Campus Crusade for Christ) and RUF (Reformed University Fellowship). There may be other regional or campus-specific programs your student can connect with too. Remember that even at Christian schools, it makes a big impact on the student's faith when they can get plugged into a Bible study and attend chapel or a local church. Encourage your student to find that engagement and support while they're getting settled in at the school!
Apply to a combination of Reach, Fit, and Safety schools, both public and private.
If college is your plan, I think you'll love my book, The HomeScholar Guide to College Admission and Scholarships: Homeschool Secrets to Getting Ready, Getting In and Getting Paid. You can relax with this book - it's like a casual conversation, sprinkled with scripture, humor, valuable tips, and quotes from The Princess Bride!
I hope this helps put your mind at ease if you're a Christian considering a public university. There's lots to consider, but you can successfully navigate this journey.