2022 Top Public Colleges and Universities in Virginia

Public colleges and universities are often the most affordable option for students pursuing higher education, but it’s not just affordability that makes these institutions attractive. Public institutions also rank highly among the best colleges and universities in many states, Virginia included.

Public colleges and universities receive state and federal funding. Although they generally have larger class sizes than private institutions, they also tend to offer a wide variety of academic programs, diverse student bodies, and prestigious research opportunities.

2022 Best Public Colleges and Universities in Virginia

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

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Showing 30 schools

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    Avg Tuition per YearTuition is the price you pay to attend classes. Tuition varies by school, and does not include costs associated with room and board, books, school supplies, meal plans, or transportation.

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    #1

    University of Virginia-Main Campus

    Charlottesville, VA

    Graduation Rate

    94%

    Enrollment

    25,628

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $15772

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $49819

    From its campus in Charlottesville, Virginia, University of Virginia-Main Campus offers multiple programs as a public institution. The school's accredited degrees help graduates launch or advance professional careers. Learners benefit from academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Many of the school's degrees make national rankings. The institution charges an average per-credit fee of 1337. Students attending the accredited institution may qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Students receive an average aid award of $ 15051, making the average tuition cost after aid $ 19043. Learners at the institution choose from academic and technical programs. Based on their major, students take foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. University of Virginia-Main Campus holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #2

    William & Mary

    Williamsburg, VA

    Graduation Rate

    91%

    Enrollment

    8,939

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $17168

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $40089

    William & Mary, which enrolls students in programs from its Williamsburg, Virginia campus. Students choose from multiple degree-granting programs and courses. The programs offer academic and technical tracks to help students meet their career goals. Enrollees can earn an associate degree in two years, a bachelor's degree in four years, a master's degree in 1-2 years, or a doctoral degree in 3-7 years. Depending on the program, applicants may need to submit test scores. The waiver makes it simpler to apply. Admission advisors can provide additional information on submitting an application. Learners also use financial aid to pay for their college degree. William & Mary holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

    #3

    Virginia Military Institute

    Lexington, VA

    Graduation Rate

    85%

    Enrollment

    1,698

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $9562

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $37572

    Virginia Military Institute, located in Lexington, Virginia, enrolls students in 16 programs. Degree-seekers benefit from rigorous programs that rank among the best in the nation. The school reports a 11-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. The school reports that 94% of students receive financial aid. The school reports a graduation rate of 85%. Job seekers often benefit from hands-on experience, which makes them more competitive job candidates. Hopeful students can expect admission rates of 60%. Some students qualify for test-optional admissions. Prospective applicants can contact an admission advisor to learn more about applying.

    #4

    Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

    Blacksburg, VA

    Graduation Rate

    86%

    Enrollment

    37,024

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $11420

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $29960

    From its location in Blacksburg, Virginia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University offers multiple programs as a public institution. The school's accredited programs prepare learners for the workforce. The institution's affordable programs provide a rigorous course of study. Many of the school's degrees make national rankings. Information on the school's cost per credit is unavailable. Students attending the accredited institution may qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Students receive an average aid award of $ 7036, making the average tuition cost after aid $ 20247. Learners choose from academic and technical majors at the school. Depending on their program, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #5

    James Madison University

    Harrisonburg, VA

    Graduation Rate

    82%

    Enrollment

    21,594

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $7250

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $23564

    James Madison University ranks as a top college from its campus in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The institution offers multiple degree-granting programs. The programs offer academic and technical tracks to help students meet their career goals. At the school, students typically complete an associate degree in two years, a bachelor's degree in four years, a master's degree in 1-2 years, or a doctoral degree in 3-7 years. Some applicants qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. These policies make it easier to enroll. The admissions staff can provide more information on the process. Students also use financial aid to pay for their college degree. James Madison University holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #6

    The University of Virginia's College at Wise

    Wise, VA

    Graduation Rate

    52%

    Enrollment

    1,905

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $5693

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $23960

    The University of Virginia's College at Wise offers programs from its campus in Wise, Virginia. Degree-seekers study with experts in many different fields. The school offers academic and technical tracks to help students meet a variety of professional goals. Academic programs generally take anywhere from a few months to several years to complete depending on degree or certificate type. Applicants may qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. Flexible admission score requirements make it easier to enroll. The admissions department provides additional resources on submitting an application. Learners also use financial aid to pay for their college degree or certificate. The school holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #7

    Christopher Newport University

    Newport News, VA

    Graduation Rate

    80%

    Enrollment

    4,868

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $9100

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $21566

    From its campus in Newport News, Virginia, Christopher Newport University enrolls students in 29 programs. The institution's rigorous programs rank among the best in the nation. The school reports a 14-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. A total of 75% of the students at this institution offest some of their education-related expenses with financial aid. The school reports a 80% graduation rate. The institution understands that hands-on experience makes graduates more competitive in the job market. The admission rate for incoming students is 76%. Some applicants qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. Prospective applicants can contact an admission advisor to learn more about applying.

    #8

    George Mason University

    Fairfax, VA

    Graduation Rate

    72%

    Enrollment

    38,541

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $9510

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $32970

    George Mason University, a public institution in Fairfax, Virginia, enrolls learners in multiple programs. The school's academic and technical programs help students reach a variety of professional goals. Undergraduates complete lower-division and upper-division coursework to earn a bachelor's degree. Undergraduates also complete general education classes. Upper-division credits emphasize advanced concepts in the major. The school provides support such as tutoring and career services. Students can expect to spend around 862 per credit at the school. Learners at the accredited institution qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. George Mason University has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #9

    Germanna Community College

    Locust Grove, VA

    Graduation Rate

    36%

    Enrollment

    7,679

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $4340

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9285

    Germanna Community College, a public institution in Locust Grove, Virginia, enrolls learners in multiple programs. The school offers academic and technical programs to help learners reach their educational goals. Students prepare for a successful career by completing the program's coursework. Some programs may no longer require standardized tests for admission. Test-optional policies make it easier to apply. Learners benefit from support services like tutoring and career counseling. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. At the accredited school, learners qualify for federal student aid programs. Germanna Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #10

    Dabney S Lancaster Community College

    Clifton Forge, VA

    Graduation Rate

    38%

    Enrollment

    1,075

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $4620

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9918

    From its campus in Clifton Forge, Virginia, Dabney S Lancaster Community College enrolls learners in 60 programs. The institution's many rigorous academic programs rank among the best in the nation. The school has a student-to-faculty ratio of 17-to-1. The institution reports that approximately 91% of enrollees receive financial aid. The school reports a 38% graduation rate. Job seekers often benefit from hands-on experience, which makes them more competitive job candidates. The institution's admission rate is unknown at this time. Some applicants qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. Prospective applicants can contact the admissions office for more information about applying.

    #11

    Piedmont Virginia Community College

    Charlottesville, VA

    Graduation Rate

    38%

    Enrollment

    4,864

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $4650

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9948

    Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, Piedmont Virginia Community College grants degrees as a public institution. The school's academic and technical programs help learners reach a variety of professional goals. The institution's degree and certificate programs offer coursework that prepares students for advancement in their field. Some programs provide a test-optional admission option. Applicants may find it easier to enroll without a test score requirement. Learners receive support in the form of tutoring and career services. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. Learners at this accredited school also qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #12

    Virginia Commonwealth University

    Richmond, VA

    Graduation Rate

    66%

    Enrollment

    29,070

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $12179

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $32827

    From its campus in Richmond, Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University awards degrees as a public institution. Instructors bring expertise in their fields. The school's academic and technical programs prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. The institution's cost per credit is unknown. Students at the accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid, including grants and loans. At the institution, 83% of students receive financial aid and 47% take out loans. The school reports a graduation rate of 66%. The admission rate is 91% for hopeful students. Prospective students can contact the admissions department for more details about application requirements. The school holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #13

    University of Mary Washington

    Fredericksburg, VA

    Graduation Rate

    65%

    Enrollment

    4,293

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $8678

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $25104

    From its Fredericksburg, Virginia campus, University of Mary Washington offers 38 program options for students. The institution's top-ranked programs offer students a challenging course of study. The school boasts a 13-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. According to the institution, 93% of students receive some form of financial aid. The school reports a graduation rate of 65%. The institution understands that real-world experience helps job seekers stand out. The school reports an 75% admission rate. Some programs no longer require test scores for admission. The admission department can provide more information about application requirements and start dates.

    #14

    Laurel Ridge Community College

    Middletown, VA

    Graduation Rate

    43%

    Enrollment

    6,337

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $4620

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9918

    A public institution located in Middletown, Virginia, Laurel Ridge Community College enrolls students in several programs. Graduates leave the school prepared for the workforce. Learners benefit from academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Students can enroll in nationally ranked programs. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. Degree-seekers at this accredited institution may qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. The school reports that students receive an average aid award of $4753, making the average tuition cost after aid $6320. Learners choose from academic and technical majors at the school. Depending on their major, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

    #15

    John Tyler Community College

    Chester, VA

    Graduation Rate

    31%

    Enrollment

    9,440

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $4650

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9948

    Located in Chester, Virginia, John Tyler Community College grants college degrees as a public institution. With both academic and technical programs, the school helps learners reach their educational goals. The institution offers coursework that gives students the chance to gain relevant knowledge and skills. Some programs provide a test-optional admission option. A waiver makes it easier to apply. Learners benefit from support services, which include tutoring and career counseling. Data on the school's average cost per credit is unavailable. Learners at the accredited school qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. John Tyler Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #16

    Northern Virginia Community College

    Annandale, VA

    Graduation Rate

    29%

    Enrollment

    52,873

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $5412

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $10790

    Located in Annandale, Virginia, Northern Virginia Community College enrolls students as a public institution. Experts in diverse disciplines teach at the institution. The school offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. At the accredited school, learners qualify for financial aid, including federal loans, scholarships, and grants. A total of 60% of students receive financial aid and 10% take out loans at the school. The institution reports a 29% graduation rate. The institution's admission rate is currently unknown. Prospective students can contact the admission department for more information about applying. Northern Virginia Community College has received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

    #17

    Wytheville Community College

    Wytheville, VA

    Graduation Rate

    42%

    Enrollment

    2,244

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $4620

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9918

    A top-ranked school, Wytheville Community College enrolls learners in programs from its campus in Wytheville, Virginia. Degree-seekers study with experts in many different fields. Academic and technical programs help learners reach their unique professional goals. Academic programs can take as little as a few months or as many as seven years to complete, depending on the degree or certificate type and the student's enrollment status. Some programs may no longer require standardized tests for admission. A waiver makes it easier to enroll. The admissions department provides more information about the application process. At the accredited institution, students also qualify for financial aid to pay for school. Wytheville Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #18

    Mountain Empire Community College

    Big Stone Gap, VA

    Graduation Rate

    40%

    Enrollment

    2,253

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $4620

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9918

    Mountain Empire Community College ranks as a top school from its campus in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Enrollees take courses with experts in diverse disciplines. The programs offer academic and technical tracks to help learners meet their career goals. Depending on the program, students can spend anywhere from a few months up to as many as seven years earning their degree or certificate. Applicants may qualify for test-optional admissions. Test-optional policies make it easier to apply. The admissions department can help prospective students determine the next steps. Degree-seekers at the accredited institution also qualify for financial aid to cover costs. Mountain Empire Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #19

    Patrick Henry Community College

    Martinsville, VA

    Graduation Rate

    40%

    Enrollment

    2,050

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $4620

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9918

    Located in Martinsville, Virginia, Patrick Henry Community College enrolls students as a public institution. The college offers academic and technical programs to help learners reach their educational goals. Students strengthen their knowledge of the field by completing coursework. Depending on the program, applicants may need to submit test scores. Flexible admission score requirements make it easier to enroll. Learners benefit from support services, which include tutoring and career counseling. Information on the school's cost per credit is unavailable. At the accredited school, learners qualify for federal student aid programs such as the Pell Grant. Patrick Henry Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #20

    Virginia Western Community College

    Roanoke, VA

    Graduation Rate

    35%

    Enrollment

    5,738

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $4680

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9978

    A public institution located in Roanoke, Virginia, Virginia Western Community College offers multiple programs. The school offers accredited programs that prepare learners for the workforce. The institution offers affordable programs that do not sacrifice academic rigor. Several of the school's programs appear in national rankings. The institution's average cost per credit is unknown. Degree-seekers at this accredited institution may qualify for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Students receive an average aid award of $5246, lowering the average tuition cost after aid to $6453. The institution offers both academic and technical programs. Depending on their major, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. Virginia Western Community College holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

    #21

    Southside Virginia Community College

    Alberta, VA

    Graduation Rate

    33%

    Enrollment

    3,123

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $4620

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9918

    Southside Virginia Community College, located in Alberta, Virginia, operates as a public institution. Degree-seekers take courses with experts in diverse disciplines. Students who complete an academic or technical program often enter the workforce right away. The amount students pay per credit is unknown at this time. The accredited institution meets the requirements for federal financial aid programs, including the Pell Grant. The institution reports that 92% of students receive financial aid and 0% take out loans. The public institution reports a 33% graduation rate. The school's admission rate is unavailable. The admissions office provides more information about application requirements and start dates. The school holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #22

    Central Virginia Community College

    Lynchburg, VA

    Graduation Rate

    33%

    Enrollment

    3,370

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $4620

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9918

    Central Virginia Community College offers programs from its campus in Lynchburg, Virginia. Enrollees study with experts in many different fields. The school's academic and technical tracks help students meet diverse career goals. Completing a program can take anywhere from a few months to seven years depending on degree or certificate type and whether the student chooses part-time or full-time enrollment. Some programs provide a test-optional admission option. These policies make it easier to enroll. The admissions department can provide more information on the process. Enrollees at the accredited institution also qualify for financial aid to cover costs. The school holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

    #23

    New River Community College

    Dublin, VA

    Graduation Rate

    37%

    Enrollment

    4,137

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $4620

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9918

    New River Community College ranks as a top school from its campus in Dublin, Virginia. Instructors draw on their expertise in diverse fields. The school offers academic and technical tracks to help learners meet a variety of professional goals. Academic programs can take as little as a few months or as many as seven years to complete, depending on the degree or certificate type and the student's enrollment status. Applicants may qualify for a test score waiver. A test score waiver makes it easier to enroll. The admissions staff can provide more information on the process. Degree-seekers also use financial aid to cover their educational costs. New River Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

    #24

    J Sargeant Reynolds Community College

    Richmond, VA

    Graduation Rate

    28%

    Enrollment

    7,759

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $4743

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $10041

    J Sargeant Reynolds Community College, a public institution in Richmond, Virginia, enrolls learners in multiple programs. With both academic and technical programs, the school helps learners reach their career goals. Students complete courses and experiential learning opportunities to bolster their knowledge. Some programs may let applicants apply without submitting test scores. Test-optional policies make it easier to enroll. The school supports learners with academic help and career services. The amount students pay per credit on average is unknown. At the accredited school, learners qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. J Sargeant Reynolds Community College holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #25

    Thomas Nelson Community College

    Hampton, VA

    Graduation Rate

    28%

    Enrollment

    6,256

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $4680

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9978

    Located in Hampton, Virginia, Thomas Nelson Community College educates students as a public institution. The college offers academic and technical programs to help learners reach their educational goals. Students gain knowledge and skill specific to their field by completing their program's coursework requirements. Applicants may qualify for a test score waiver. Test-optional policies make it easier to apply. The school supports learners with tutoring and career services. The institution's average cost per credit is unknown. Learners attending the accredited school also qualify for federal financial aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Thomas Nelson Community College has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #26

    Old Dominion University

    Norfolk, VA

    Graduation Rate

    53%

    Enrollment

    24,286

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $7029

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $26664

    Old Dominion University, a public institution in Norfolk, Virginia, enrolls learners in multiple programs. With both academic and technical programs, the school helps students reach their educational goals. The institution's bachelor's programs incorporate lower-division and upper-division coursework. Students also complete general education credits. Degree-seekers study advanced concepts in their major during upper-division courses. The school supports learners with tutoring and career services. Students can expect to pay around 492 per credit while earning a degree. The accredited institution qualifies for federal student aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Old Dominion University has received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #27

    Danville Community College

    Danville, VA

    Graduation Rate

    42%

    Enrollment

    2,411

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $4620

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9918

    A public institution, Danville Community College grants degrees and certificates from its campus in Danville, Virginia. Learners study with experts in many different fields. The school offers academic and technical programs that prepare graduates for the workforce or further study. The school's average cost per credit is unknown. At the accredited school, learners qualify for financial aid, including federal loans, scholarships, and grants. A total of 92% of students receive financial aid and 9% take out loans at the institution. The school reports a 42% graduation rate. The school's admission rate is currently unknown. Prospective students can contact the admissions department for more details about application requirements. The school holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #28

    Virginia Highlands Community College

    Abingdon, VA

    Graduation Rate

    40%

    Enrollment

    2,086

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $4620

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9918

    Located in Virginia, Virginia Highlands Community College offers 74 programs for students. Learners benefit from rigorous programs that rank among the best in the nation. The school has a student-to-faculty ratio of 19-to-1. The institution reports that of its total enrollees, 91% receive financial aid. The school reports a 40% graduation rate. The institution understands that real-world experience helps job seekers stand out. The rate of admission for the school is unknown. Applicants may qualify for a waiver for standardized test scores. Applicants can reach out to the admissions office to learn more about enrolling.

    #29

    Blue Ridge Community College

    Weyers Cave, VA

    Graduation Rate

    27%

    Enrollment

    3,462

    Format

    In person

    In-State Tuition

    $4620

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $9918

    From its campus in Weyers Cave, Virginia, Blue Ridge Community College educates students as a public institution. Students complete programs that prepare them for careers and professional advancement. Degree-seekers benefit from academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Multiple programs at the school appear in national rankings. Information on the school's cost per credit is unavailable. Students attending the accredited institution may qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Students receive an average aid award of $5123, lowering the average tuition cost after aid to $9942. The institution offers both academic and technical programs. Depending on their major, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. Blue Ridge Community College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    #30

    Radford University

    Radford, VA

    Graduation Rate

    56%

    Enrollment

    10,695

    Format

    Online, In person

    In-State Tuition

    $7922

    Out-of-State Tuition

    $19557

    A public institution, Radford University grants degrees from its campus in Radford, Virginia. With both academic and technical programs, the institution helps students reach their educational goals. The institution's bachelor's programs incorporate lower-division and upper-division requirements. Undergraduates also complete general education classes. Degree-seekers learn advanced concepts in their major during upper-division courses. Learners benefit from support services, which include tutoring and career counseling. Data on the school's average cost per credit is unavailable. Learners at the accredited institution qualify for federal aid programs, including the Pell Grant. Radford University has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

    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

    Pros

    • Check Circle
      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.
    • Check Circle
      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.
    • Check Circle
      Enrollment in public four-year colleges in Virginia ranges from about 1,800 students to almost 40,000 students, allowing you to choose between both large and small public schools.

    Cons

    • X Circle
      Public colleges and universities may have more limited financial aid opportunities for students than private schools.
    • X Circle
      Out-of-state students pay higher fees than in-state students.
    • X Circle
      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.

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    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.