According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), there are nearly 100 colleges and universities awarding four-year degrees in Virginia. With all those schools to choose from, students might find it difficult to figure out which one can best help them reach their educational goals.
Whether you're hoping to study at a main campus, at a regional satellite location or from home via distance education, it can help to have some idea of which institutions are the best traditional and online colleges in Virginia. We put together a huge portfolio of data on four-year universities in the state and analyzed them with an in-house methodology that covers 13 conventional measures of affordability, flexibility and student success.
When the dust settled, the 10 best colleges for a campus-based or online bachelor's degree in Virginia became pretty clear. Nearly all the schools on our list — nine out of ten, to be precise — have guaranteed admission agreements in place for students transferring from two-year schools in the Virginia Community College System (VCCS). Read on to find out who made the cut, and to learn why each school ranked the way it did.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Virginia
The top schools in Virginia include a mix of public and private institutions from across the state. They were selected using a methodology that considered tuition rates, graduation rates, degree availability and program prominence. Keeping reading to learn which Virginia colleges rise to the top as the best of the best. When done, read on about the top community colleges in Virginia.
Not every school can say it was founded by Thomas Jefferson, but the University of Virginia can. It was established in 1819 by the founding father and has grown into one of the country's premier institutions of higher learning.
UVA is a highly selective school that excels at helping students succeed. It is notable for its commitment to providing financial assistance as well as its strong graduation rate. What's more, it provides flexible learning options, including a number of online degrees and online courses, which make it convenient for even adult learners to finish their education.
Within the University of Virginia, there are 11 academic schools as well as the College at Wise, a liberal arts college located in Southwest Virginia. The university's main campus is in Charlottesville.
Better known as Virginia Tech, the next of the best colleges in Virginia offers a hands-on education intended to provide students with practical, problem-solving skills. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is one of the state's most comprehensive accredited universities and a leading research institution.
The nine colleges and graduate school at Virginia Tech offer about 280 degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and the school's 34,000 students benefit from small class sizes and a focus on experiential learning. In addition to enrolling civilian students, the institute maintains a Corps of Cadets on-campus.
Virginia Tech was founded in 1872 as an agricultural and mechanical college. It went through several transformations before becoming the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1970. The school's campus is in Blacksburg.
As one of the largest public institutions in the state, it may come as no surprise that George Mason University makes the list of best universities in Virginia. Not only does the school have an impressive catalog of on-campus degree programs, but it also offers a selection of online courses for distance learners.
Mason is another school with ties to a founding father. Its namesake, George Mason, drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights, a document that would serve as a model for the U.S. Bill of Rights. Formed in 1957 with an inaugural class of 17 students, it has grown into a powerhouse school enrolling 34,000 learners from across the globe.
Students can select from degree programs offered in 10 colleges and schools. George Mason University has its main campus in Fairfax.
Among the top schools in Virginia, James Madison University is known for its innovative educational programs. Students are encouraged to work collaboratively with other students and faculty as they develop the strong work ethic and critical thinking skills needed to be successful after graduation.
Founded in 1908, JMU offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees through its colleges. For those who prefer distance education, there are online degrees at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. There are also blended programs that include both on-campus and online courses.
James Madison University is located in Harrisonburg, which is a part of Virginia's picturesque Shenandoah Valley. The school attracts top tier students from across the nation and is a top producer of Fulbright Scholars at the master's degree level.
If you want to study in an urban setting, Virginia Commonwealth University may be a good choice for you. As one of the top colleges in Virginia, the school has its campus in the state capital of Richmond.
VCU is a research institution that boasts of a diverse student body, a school-wide commitment to community service and a tradition of academic excellence. The university is home to 17 colleges and schools, including five health sciences schools. The VCU Medical Center is a top-rated hospital in the state.
Virginia Commonwealth University's strong health sciences program is likely linked to its history. The university was formed in 1838 as the Medical College of Hampden-Sydney. While it has expanded its course catalog over the years, it remains a top pick for those planning a career in health care who are looking for health care degrees.
Chartered in 1693, the College of William and Mary is the second-oldest college in the country. As one of the "Public Ivies," it prides itself on providing a world-class education that has been cultivated through 300 years of higher learning experience.
Despite the prestige suggested by its long tenure, William and Mary is one of the more affordable accredited schools in the state for low-income students. It has strong retention and graduation rates, and statistically, its alumni don't seem to be saddled with the same amount of student loan debt incurred by students at other institutions.
The College of William and Mary gets its name from King William III and Queen Mary II of England, who established the institution. It has its main campus in Williamsburg.
Based in a city of the same name, Hampton University is one of the best universities in Virginia and also one of the top historically black universities in the world. It prides itself on providing its community of learners with an experience steeped in tradition.
Hampton U was founded in 1868, and its campus is home to the Emancipation Oak, which is where the Emancipation Proclamation to free slaves was read for the first time in the South. Over the years, the school has received visits from such dignitaries as President Barack Obama, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and poet Maya Angelou.
However, Hampton University is more than a place where history has been made. Today's students have access to a number of excellent academic programs spanning 10 colleges and schools.
Old Dominion University takes its name from Virginia's state nickname and educates its students in the state's second-largest city. In addition to its main campus in Norfolk, there are three extended campuses located elsewhere. Being one of the top colleges in Virginia, ODU offers flexible learning options including both campus-based and online degree programs.
Overall, nearly 25,000 students enroll at Old Dominion University each year, with almost a quarter of those being affiliated with the military. As a research institution, the university features state-of-the-art facilities and contributes more than $2.5 billion to the Virginia economy each year.
Students have their choice of approximately 250 undergraduate and graduate programs. These degrees are offered across nine accredited colleges and schools and cover such popular fields as business, education and the liberal arts.
Affordability of tuition and fees is part of what makes Radford University one of the best schools in Virginia. The institution was founded in 1910 as the State Normal and Industrial School for Women. Since then, it has evolved to offer comprehensive degree programs as one of 15 public Virginia universities.
In addition to being an affordable education choice, Radford University is known for its sustainability initiatives, innovative use of technology and collaboration between students and faculty. Nearly 9,500 students are enrolled in the university, and almost a third of its incoming freshman come from ethnically diverse backgrounds.
Radford has six academic colleges offering undergraduate and graduate degrees. Most classes are taught by professors who have completed the highest level of education offered in their field.
For more than 110,000 students, Liberty University is the institution of choice. The school was founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell in 1971 as the Lynchburg Baptist College. It has since grown to offer hundreds of on-campus and online degree programs and describes itself as the largest Christian university in the world.
Liberty University includes 17 colleges and schools that cover both the liberal arts and specialized fields such as law, aviation and theology. Its online division includes approximately 200 programs with many fully online degree options available at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
The school has student body that represents all 50 states as well as more than 80 countries, and most students receive financial aid. Liberty University has its campus in Lynchburg.
Most popular degree programs in Virginia
Whether you're hoping to pick a major that gives you plenty of study partners or avoid common study plans in your quest to stand out, it can help to be aware of the most popular campus-based and online bachelor's degree programs in Virginia. Here's a list of the top degrees by enrollment in the state.
In-Demand Careers in Virginia
Focusing your education on a high-demand industry can help you increase the chances that you'll successfully more into the career of your choice after finishing your degree. Take a look at the hottest career fields in Virginia this year and see if one might be right for you.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Home Health and Personal Care Aides||51.4%||49,420||$22,610|
|Information Security Analysts||41.5%||15,010||$114,760|
|Operations Research Analysts||36.5%||8,770||$104,090|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||35.7%||2,930||$59,340|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||34.8%||550||$57,980|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||34%||900||$68,120|
|Physical Therapist Aides||33.4%||1,490||$29,250|
|Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers||32.7%||73,310||$114,440|
|Orthotists and Prosthetists||32.4%||140||$74,370|
|Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary||30.8%||4,000||-|
|Hearing Aid Specialists||30.8%||400||$48,140|
|Veterinary Technologists and Technicians||30%||2,100||$43,820|
|Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers||29.8%||4,320||$27,550|
|Counselors, All Other||28.4%||280||-|
|Dental Laboratory Technicians||28.4%||780||$55,050|
|Nursing Instructors and Teachers, Postsecondary||28.2%||1,500||$71,640|
|Interpreters and Translators||27.6%||2,350||$75,770|
|Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists||26.8%||21,320||$74,630|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Virginia
There are numerous state-based financial aid opportunities that may be available to Virginia residents seeking four-year degrees. Here's a short list:
- The Virginia Commonwealth Award and Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program aim to ease the burden for students with appropriate financial need.
- The Two-Year College Transfer grant provides up to $2,000 for qualifying students transferring into select four-year schools the year after finishing an associate degree.
- The Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program provides assistance for immediate family members of military veterans killed or drastically disabled in war.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Renewable for up to four years.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
- State Council of Higher Education for Virginia
- Commonwealth of Virginia Financial Aid
- Higher Education Business Resources
- NCES College Navigator
- Virginia's Community Colleges
To get our list of the best colleges, we ranked 1,383 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. Each school was scored on a 100-point scale, using the following data points and the weights specified. In order to be included in the ranking, schools had to report data for each of the following data points:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- The average amount of institutional grant aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduate students as a percentage of in-state tuition and fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of full-time first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Median debt of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- 3-year student loan repayment rate of graduates, College Scorecard, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered on campus, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015-16
- Percent of students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2016
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2013-14
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2016-17
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Programs of study that can be completed entirely on weekends or in the evening
- Remedial services
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Guaranteed tuition plan
- Tuition payment plan
- Any other alternative tuition plan
Note:Tuition prices are based on data for the 2016-17 academic year reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
All of the National Center for Education Statistics data came from IPEDS:
Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2015-16, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- Facts & Figures, University of Virginia, Accessed March 2018, http://www.virginia.edu/facts
- About Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech, Accessed March 2018, https://vt.edu/about.html
- History and Traditions, Virginia Tech, Accessed March 2018, https://vt.edu/about/traditions.html
- Mason Milestones, George Mason University, Accessed March 2018, https://www2.gmu.edu/about-mason/mason-milestones
- About Mason, George Mason University, Accessed March 2018, https://www2.gmu.edu/about-mason
- About JMU, James Madison University, Accessed March 2018, http://www.jmu.edu/about/index.shtml
- Mission and History, Virginia Commonwealth University, Accessed March 2018, https://www.vcu.edu/about-vcu/mission-and-history/
- About VCU, Virginia Commonwealth University, Accessed March 2018, https://www.vcu.edu/about-vcu/
- W&M at a Glance, College of William and Mary, Accessed March 2018, https://www.wm.edu/about/wmataglance/index.php
- Notable Alumni & Visitors, Hampton University, Accessed March 2018, http://www.hamptonu.edu/about/notable_alumni.cfm
- History, Hampton University, Accessed March 2018, http://www.hamptonu.edu/about/history.cfm
- About ODU, Old Dominion University, Accessed March 2018, https://www.odu.edu/about
- Academics at Radford, Radford University, Accessed March 2018, http://www.radford.edu/content/radfordcore/home/academics.html
- Who We Are, Radford University, Accessed March 2018, http://www.radford.edu/content/radfordcore/home/about.html
- Colleges & Universities, State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, Accessed March 2018, http://www.schev.edu/index/students-and-parents/explore/virginia-institutions
- Liberty University Quick Facts, Liberty University, Accessed March 2018. http://www.liberty.edu/aboutliberty/index.cfm?PID=6925
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- VCCS Transfer, Virginia's Community Colleges, accessed March 28, 2017, http://www.vccs.edu/students/transfers/
- Top Producers of Fulbright Scholars and Students, 2016-17, The Chronicle of Higher Education, accessed March 28, 2017, http://www.chronicle.com/article/Top-Producers-of-Fulbright/239220
- U.S. News and World Report, accessed March 28, 2017: Overall Rankings, Virginia Tech, https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/virginia-tech-3754/overall-rankings; Overall Rankings, Virginia Military Institute, https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/vmi-3753/overall-rankings;
- QuickFacts, U.S. Census Bureau, accessed March 28, 2017, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045216/5127440,5157000,00
- Financial Aid Programs, State Council for Higher Education of Virginia, http://www.schev.edu/index/tuition-aid/financialaid/state-student-aid/undergraduate-financial-aid-programs