Virginia is a World-Class Higher Education Destination for Students



Old Dominion University

Courtesy of ODU

For Virginia residents and out-of-state students alike, the Commonwealth’s higher education institutions offer exceptional value and a wide range of programs to meet the needs of all types of students. Whether you are a student athlete looking to play at the collegiate level, a nontraditional student seeking to advance your career, an aspiring doctor or something in between, Virginia has a higher education program where you will thrive.

During the 2018–2019 academic year, there were 521,471 students enrolled in Virginia’s higher education institutions, according to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. And it isn’t just enrollment that’s impressive. The Commonwealth also boasts the second-highest public four-year graduation rate in the country. And in 2017, Virginia was named the No. 1 state for higher education by SmartAsset, a finance website. SmartAsset also noted that Virginia always ranks in the top 10 states for higher education.

According to SmartAsset, “Virginia’s public colleges and universities effectively educate their students. Virginia has one of the highest average graduation rates in our study at 70 percent. And, the average 20-year return on investment for graduates is $442,660, which is the fourth-highest ROI in our study. Additionally, the student-faculty ratio in Virginia rates seventh lowest in the nation.”

Christopher Newport University
Christopher Newport University; photo by Ben Leistensnider, CNU staff photographer

Virginia is home to 15 four-year public universities, 13 of which offer graduate programs. Students seeking associate degrees can choose from one of 23 two-year schools in the Virginia Community College System, or the Richard Bland College of William & Mary. There are also 28 private college options in Virginia, a great choice for students seeking small classes with an average student-faculty ratio of 11:1, more personalized attention and a focus on opportunities for campus and community involvement.

While Virginia colleges boast programs that encompass all areas of study, one major area of growth that sets the state apart is technology. When Amazon was considering Virginia as a site for its new headquarters, Virginia Tech promised to build a 1 million-square-foot Innovation Campus, and George Mason University vowed to open a new School of Computing and an institute for digital innovation. Amazon selected Northern Virginia as the site of their new $2.5 billion headquarters, so these schools are now working to hold up their ends of the bargain. Additionally, Northern Virginia currently has 33,000 unfilled jobs in cybersecurity, and universities are prioritizing technology programs to meet increased demand in the region.

Students pursuing careers in the medical field are also drawn to Virginia’s higher education institutions. Virginia’s four medical schools—Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Medicine, University of Virginia (UVA) School of Medicine, Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) and Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine—are all highly ranked institutions. And while the cost of earning a medical degree is always substantial, Virginia doctors see a high return on their investment. Graduates who decide to practice medicine in the state can expect to earn 436% above the national median income for all occupations.

Many aspiring lawyers also set their sights on Virginia universities. Of the nine law schools in Virginia, UVA, William & Mary and Washington and Lee University rank the highest. UVA Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the country and is perennially ranked among the nation’s top 10 law schools. William & Mary was the first university to offer a professional law education back in 1779. Additionally, William & Mary was ranked No. 1 on the list of Top 10 2019–2020 Military Friendly Graduate Schools and No. 5 for best law schools for government jobs, according to PreLaw Magazine.

Virginia universities also draw top-notch athletes with their exceptional athletic programs. This year, the UVA Cavaliers took home the NCAA men’s basketball championship—one of the most recognized college athletics championships. The Cavaliers also won the 2019 NCAA men’s lacrosse championship this past year for the sixth time in their history. Virginia Tech, James Madison University and Old Dominion University all boast excellent athletic programs as well, providing student athletes with many options for playing their sport while receiving an exceptional education.

No matter what type of higher education program you are looking for, there are myriad factors that come into play when deciding which institution to attend. But if you’re seeking a world-class education, an excellent student-to-faculty ratio and a high return on your investment, looking no further than the Commonwealth certainly has its benefits.

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