In the U.S., many universities and colleges are private, operated as educational and research nonprofit organizations. While most liberal arts colleges are likewise private, there are also some public liberal arts colleges. Some private universities are closely affiliated with religious organizations (for example, the University of Notre Dame) and some are directly operated by religious organizations (such as Brigham Young University).
Proprietary colleges are also private though they are most often referred to as proprietary colleges to prevent confusion with non-profit private institutions.
Like government-operated institutions, private universities are eligible for educational accreditation, but some private universities (primarily proprietary colleges) lack accreditation (see list of unaccredited institutions of higher learning), and their degrees are not formally recognized.
Legally, private universities may not discriminate, but generally have a somewhat free hand in setting admissions policies. For example, universities in the Ivy League based their selections on many secondary factors other than academic performance, up through the beginning of the 20th century. Since the post WW2-era, however, following in the mold of James Bryant Conant at Harvard, most private universities have made enormous strides in becoming meritocratic. The nation's private institutions now make broad efforts to recruit students from underprivileged backgrounds.
The U.S. system of education has also been transplanted to other countries. Private universities such as the American University in Cairo and the American University of Afghanistan typically offer a liberal arts curriculum to their students.
Tuition fees at private universities tend to be higher than at public universities though many private universities offer financial aid as well.