Virginia (VA): Overview of Virginia's College and University System
There are 187 colleges and universities within Virginia. Read about the schools with the most program variety, lowest costs, highest graduation rates and lowest student-faculty ratios to find the school for you.
School Ranking Overview
Virginia is rich with schools of all types, from small to very large, from public to private, and from 2-year to 4-year and beyond into graduate school. This article looks at Virginia's non-profit colleges in several different lights, ranking the top three in each of these four categories:
- Program Variety
- Net Price
- Graduation Rate
- Student-Faculty Ratio
Most Program Variety
Program variety gives students more opportunities to pursue the fields they're interested in and curious about, which is particularly important for individuals who don't know what they'd like to do after college. It can also provide them with additional opportunities to further their studies with advanced degrees. The following 3 public universities have the most program variety and most academic opportunities in Virginia.
1 - Virginia Commonwealth University
Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond is a 4-year, public institution that has 135 academic options available through undergraduate and graduate certificates and bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs. The 2013 U.S. News and World Report ranked it #16 on the list of Up-and-Coming Schools, #94 on the list of Top Public Schools and #170 on the list of National Universities. Some of the university's undergraduate programs include homeland security and emergency preparedness, financial technology, art education and nuclear engineering. Business, management, marketing and related services was the most popular major among 2011 graduates, followed by visual and performing arts and health professions, according to U.S. News and World Report. The university's website reported that it conferred 4,666 bachelor's degrees, 1,740 master's degrees, 333 doctoral degrees and 308 certificates during the 2011-12 academic year.
2 - Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
There are about 120 academic options, including associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees, at Blacksburg's Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). The school's most popular majors for 2011 graduates were business, management, marketing and related services and engineering, both of which were pursued by 20% of students, according to the 2013 U.S. News and World Report. That same source ranked the school #40 on the list of Best Undergraduate Business Programs, #16 on the list of Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs and #72 on the list of National Universities. Founded in 1872, the 2,600-acre institution has 8 colleges and the graduate school, through which students can select from 65 bachelor's degree programs and 150 master's and doctoral degree programs.
3 - George Mason University
Students at George Mason University in Fairfax can select from 119 options through bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. The public university is ranked #1 on the 2013 U.S. News and World Report list of Up-and-Coming Schools, #70 on the list of Top Public Schools and #139 on the list of National Universities. Some of the university's undergraduate fields of study include conflict analysis and resolution, theater, neuroscience, physics and accounting. About 7% of 2011 graduates pursued a degree in general psychology, making it the university's most popular program, followed by general communication, accounting, biology and biological sciences and general business administration and management, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Lowest Net Price
Net price is the cost of attending a college or university after the average amount of institutional and government financial aid has been subtracted from the total cost of attendance, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). In Virginia, the net price of many institutions exceeds $20,000 per year. However, the following 3 traditional institutions have the lowest net prices in the state as of the 2011-12 academic year, according to NCES.
1 - Wytheville Community College
Wytheville Community College is a 2-year public college that has a net price of $1,978. The college is committed to providing students with a variety of learning and community service opportunities. According to the school website, the per-credit tuition was $133 for Virginia residents and $328 for out-of-state residents as of the 2013-14 academic year. The NCES reported that 49% of students received financial aid in the form of grants or scholarships, with an average package of $3,841.
2 - Central Virginia Community College
Students at Lynchburg's Central Virginia Community College paid a net price of only $4,470 per year. The college opened to serve Amherst, Appotomax¸ Bedford and Campbell counties in 1965 after it was determined that there was sufficient need for transfer and career programs in the arts and sciences in the community. In-state residents paid $3,885 in tuition and fees as of the 2012-13 academic year, a 11.6% increase from the year before, according to the NCES. Out-of-state residents paid $9,648 in tuition and fees that same year, about a 2% increase from the year before. According to NCES statistics, 33% of students received financial aid during the 2011-12 academic year, and they received an average amount of $3,529.
3 - Dabney S. Lancaster Community College
With a net price of $4,538, Dabney S Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge has the 3rd lowest net price of Virginia's traditional colleges and universities. The 2-year college provides credit and non-credit course options that are designed to challenge students to acquire and apply skills and knowledge. NCES figures show that 45% of students received financial aid during the 2011-12 academic year and that they were awarded an average amount of $3,232. The school website reported that in-state residents paid about $133 per credit hour, including all fees, and that out-of-state residents paid about $327 per credit hour as of the 2013-14 academic year.
Highest Graduation Rate
A school's overall graduation rate is the percentage of students who graduate within 150% of 'normal time', or 6 years for a bachelor's degree. Although many Virginia schools have an overall graduation rate of 50% or less, other schools have a graduation rate of over 90%, according to NCES. That same site reported that the following 3 schools had the highest overall graduation rates in the state among students who began their studies in the Fall 2005 school year.
1 - Virginia University of Lynchburg
Virginia University of Lynchburg has a 100% overall graduation rate. It's a 4-year private college that strives to provide students with a liberal arts education that's based on Christian values. The school's retention rate, which refers to the percentage of students who return the year after staring their studies, was 95% for full-time students and 87% for part-time students who began their studies in 2010, according to NCES.
2 - University of Virginia - Main Campus
The University of Virginia - Main Campus, located in Charlottesville had a 94% graduation rate and a 3% transfer-out rate. The school's 4-year graduation rate was 87% for students who began their studies in 2005, according to NCES figures. The retention rate for students who began their studies in 2010 was 97% for full-time students and 100% for part-time students. The public university was founded by Thomas Jefferson and has a 1,682 acre campus. The 2013 U.S. News and World Report was ranked #24 on the list of National Universities, #2 on the list of Top Public Schools and #29 on the list of Best Value Schools.
3 - College of William and Mary
Founded in 1693, Williamsburg's College of William and Mary is the 2nd oldest college in the nation. The college is one of only 8 public Ivy League colleges in the nation and it had an overall graduation rate 91% and a 4-year graduation rate of 85%, according to NCES. It was ranked #33 on the 2013 U.S. News and World Report list of National Universities, #6 on the list of Top Public Schools and many of the undergraduate and graduate programs were also highly ranked. According to NCES figures, the school's retention rate was 95% for full-time students and 100% for part-time students. The same source reported that 7% of students who began their studies in 2005 transferred to another institution.
Lowest Student-Faculty Ratio
A low student-faculty ratio prevents students from getting lost in the crowd. Although some schools in Virginia have a student-faculty ratio of over 25:1, the following three private schools all have a significantly lower ratio at 7:1, according to NCES figures.
1 - University of Richmond
The University of Richmond is a private, liberal arts college that is ranked #28 on the 2013 U.S. News and World Report on the list of National Liberal Arts Colleges, #1 on the list of Up-and-Coming Schools and #11 on the list Best Value Schools. It has a student-faculty ratio of 7:1, according to NCES figures. The school's website reported that the average class size is 16 students and that no classes are taught by graduate assistants. According to U.S. News and World Report, the university has 325 full-time faculty members and 102 part-time faculty members. Of the full-time faculty members, 88% have a PhD or a terminal degree in their field.
1 - Virginia Intermont College
Located in Bristol, Virginia Intermont College also has a student-faculty ratio of 7:1. The private school has approximately 550 students who are able to take advantage of many of the campus' facilities, including the Belvin Arts Complex, the Fine Arts Center, the Science Hall and the Riding Center. The university has 139 staff members and of the 40 full-time faculty members, 65% have a PhD or a terminal degree in their field, according to U.S. News and World Report. That same site reported that 95% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
1 - Washington and Lee University
A 4-year, private university located in Lexington, Washington and Lee University serves about 2,300 students and also a student-faculty ratio of 7:1. The university was founded in 1749 and is ranked #14 on the U.S. News and World Report list of National Liberal Arts Colleges. About 74% of classes have fewer than 20 students, according to U.S. News and World Report. That same source reported that it had about 218 full-time and 67 part-time faculty members. Of the full-time faculty members, 96% have a terminal degree or a PhD in their field.
Virginia Schools at a Glance
|School Name||Location||School Type||Degree Levels Offered||State Ranking|
|Central Virginia Community College||Lynchburg, VA||2-year, public||Less than 1-year and 1- to 2-year certificates; associate's degrees||2nd Lowest Net Price|
|College of William and Mary||Williamsburg, VA||4-year, public||Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees; post-master's certificates||3rd Highest Graduation Rate|
|Dabney S. Lancaster Community College||Clifton Forge, VA||2-year, public||Less than 1-year and 1- to 2-year certificates; associate's degrees||3rd Lowest Net Price|
|George Mason University||Fairfax, VA||4-year, public||Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees||post-baccalaureate and post-master's certificates||3rd Most Program Variety|
|University of Richmond||University of Richmond, VA||4-year, private not-for-profit||Less than 1-year certificates; associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees; post-baccalaureate and post-master's certificates||Lowest Student-Faculty Ratio|
|University of Virginia - Main Campus||Charlottesville, VA||4-year, public||Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees; post-baccalaureate and post-master's certificates||2nd Highest Graduation Rate|
|Virginia Commonwealth University||Richmond, VA||4-year, public||2- to 4-year certificates; bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees; post-baccalaureate and post-master's certificates||Most Program Variety|
|Virginia Intermont College||Bristol, VA||4-year, private not-for-profit||Associate's and bachelor's degrees||Lowest Student-Faculty Ratio|
|Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University||Blacksburg, VA||4-year, public||Associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees; post-master's certificates||2nd Most Program Variety|
|Virginia University of Lynchburg||Lynchburg, VA||4-year, private not-for-profit||Associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees||Highest Graduation Rate|
|Washington and Lee University||Lexington, VA||4-year, private not-for-profit||Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees||Lowest Student-Faculty Ratio|
|Wytheville Community College||Wytheville, VA||2-year, public||Less than 1-year and 1- to 2-year certificates; associate's degrees||Lowest Net Price|
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