Why Choose a Public College or University in Virginia?
Students eyeing public colleges and universities in Virginia enjoy a variety of options, from small public schools to large universities. The state offers 15 public 4-year institutions, one two-year college, and 29 community colleges, serving more than 360,000 students.
The best public schools in Virginia offer students broad academic opportunities, immersive learning experiences, and engaging extracurricular activities. Six public universities in Virginia have attained the highest research designation from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Students enjoy access to innovative learning opportunities like the Northern Virginia Fabrication Laboratory, the NOVA Tech Talent Pipeline, and the Hampton Roads Cyber Collaboration Laboratory.
In-state students paid an average of $13,655 in tuition and fees in 2020. That’s higher than the U.S. average of $9,349. However, financial aid can lower your out-of-pocket costs. Virginia offers several financial aid programs for residents. Out-of-state students can consider programs offered through the Academic Common Market to save on out-of-state fees.
Students have many options for their post-secondary education. Choosing the school that’s right for you requires research. Learn about the differences between public and private colleges, and also consider whether it makes sense for you to attend an online college in Virginia.
Pros and Cons of Attending a Public College or University in Virginia
Because public colleges and universities in Virginia receive funding from the state government, in-state students can save on tuition costs compared to private or out-of-state schools.
Public colleges and universities in Virginia offer a wide variety of degree options, ensuring students can find programs to meet their educational and professional goals.
Public colleges and universities may have more limited financial aid opportunities for students than private schools.
Out-of-state students pay higher fees than in-state students.
Students may find big public schools more difficult to navigate and have less opportunity to interact with faculty or take part in experiential learning.
Nonprofit vs. For-Profit Colleges and Universities in Virginia
Both private and public colleges and universities in Virginia may qualify as nonprofit organizations. These schools channel revenues and funds into their academic and student support programs through facility improvements, hiring additional faculty, or supporting student financial aid programs.
Nonprofit colleges and universities may offer degree-granting programs or focus on in-demand career training. They often seek accreditation and participate in federal financial aid. Public nonprofit colleges and universities receive state funding. Private nonprofit colleges and universities rely on tuition payments and endowments.
For-profit colleges are owned by a company or business. Virginia calls these schools proprietary institutions. These institutions may focus on career training or alternative educational programs. They do not receive federal or state funds and rely on tuition payments for their funding.
While many for-profit colleges offer valuable academic offerings, be sure to research these schools carefully. Check their accreditation status, graduation rates, and institutional reputation. Six for-profit universities operate in Virginia.
How Much Does It Cost to Attend a Public College or University in Virginia?
Students attending public institutions in Virginia paid an average of $13,660 in tuition in 2021, higher than the U.S. average of $9,350. Out-of-state students pay more to attend public colleges and universities in Virginia, with an average of $35,830 in tuition and fees. Room and board added another $11,420 in higher education expenses.
Private colleges and universities in the state charge an average of $23,490 in tuition. Nationwide, private colleges and universities charged an average of $32,770 in tuition and fees that same year. Students should also consider the cost of transportation, books, school supplies, and technology. Students spend an average of $1,220 each year for textbooks.
College costs can vary from student to student. Residents of Virginia may qualify for state financial aid programs in addition to federal student financial assistance, reducing their out-of-pocket costs.
William & Mary reports the highest tuition for in-state students, $36,554 per year, but the U.S. Department of Education reported students paid an average of $19,800 after grants and scholarships. The University of Virginia’s College at Wise is the least expensive public institution in Virginia, with an average cost of $10,060.
Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree
Frequently Asked Questions About Public Colleges and Universities in Virginia
How many public colleges and universities are there in Virginia?
Fifteen public institutions operate in Virginia. These schools serve more than 220,000 students. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia also oversees one two-year college and 29 community colleges.
Public colleges and universities in Virginia range from small schools offering undergraduate degrees to large universities with associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs. Six universities in the state have earned recognition for their research programs.
What is the most expensive public college or university in Virginia?
Christopher Newport University in Newport News is the most expensive public institution in Virginia with an average of $25,600 in tuition and living expenses. The school serves about 4,800 undergraduate students. Just under half of the students at the school take federal student loans, graduating with a median of $24,739 in debt.
Christopher Newport conferred 1,100 undergraduate degrees in 2021 in 42 academic majors. Its business and biology programs rank among its most popular degree offerings. It boasts a 74% graduation rate. Graduates reported earning a median salary of around $55,030 a decade after entering the school.
What is the least expensive public college or university in Virginia?
The U.S. Department of Education reported students attending The University of Virginia’s College at Wise paid the least among Virginia’s four-year public institutions. Students paid an average of $10,060 in tuition and living expenses to attend the small public university. That’s below the nationwide average of $19,202 for all four-year schools.
UVA Wise serves about 1,100 undergraduate students, most of whom attend full-time. The college offers degrees in 33 majors, with five pre-professional tracks. More than 80% of students receive financial assistance. The school reported a 44% graduation rate but found 82% of graduates secure post-graduate employment, enter graduate school, or serve in the military or other service programs.
What is the biggest public college or university in Virginia?
George Mason University reported the highest enrollment in 2021 among Virginia’s public colleges and universities, with 39,142 students. Most of these students (27,335) were enrolled as undergraduates. The Fairfax campus just outside Washington, D.C., occupies 677 acres. It offers 80 undergraduate degrees through its 10 schools and colleges.
It reported a 74% graduation rate and 87% first-year retention rate. Students paid an average of $21,050 a year in tuition and living expenses in 2021.
Is a public college or university right for me?
Public colleges and universities offer students many advantages, including diverse academic offerings, lower tuition costs, and a large network of classmates and alumni. Several public institutions in Virginia offer highly regarded academic programs. But a public college or university may not be the best fit for all students.
When choosing the best school for you, consider your learning needs, academic and career goals, and financial need. Some students may find a smaller college or university offers a better academic experience with more faculty interaction. Smaller schools may offer a robust roster of extracurricular activities that can provide a fulfilling college experience.