Why go to College in Virginia?
With close proximity to large cities like Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, PA, the state of Virginia has long played a central role in the United States’ economy. The state is home to several of the country’s oldest and most prestigious universities, including the University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary. Virginia is also one of 15 states that participate in the Southern Regional Education Board’s Academic Common Market, a tuition savings program that allows out-of-state students to pay in-state tuition. Whether students attend on-campus or online classes, Virginia offers an abundance of rich resources to its students.
Virginia has just over eight million residents, and boasts colleges and universities of all sizes. The state’s largest school, Liberty University, has over 100,000 students, while the College of William and Mary has around 9,000 students.
Virginia’s climate is sometimes to referred to as the “Goldilocks Climate,” as the state’s weather is not too hot and not too cold. During the state’s warm summers, students cool off in the many rivers and lakes. During the winters, average temperatures hover in the 40s and 50s.
- Number of Higher Learning Institutions
With 222 colleges, universities, technical institutes, and other schools, Virginia has one of the highest concentrations of higher learning institutions in the country. Students in Virginia can choose from several program styles and structures, including on-campus, online, and hybrid programs.
- Sporting Events
Virginia residents enjoy professional sports teams and events in Washington D.C., such as the NBA’s Washington Wizards and NHL’s Washington Capitals. However, the state’s own college teams are enormously popular; the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech each attract large crowds for games.
The cities of Charlottesville, Arlington, and Alexandria are known for their bustling nightlife. Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia, has a thriving food scene. Richmond, home to several colleges, features a downtown party district with nightclubs, bars, and restaurants.
What Options are Available for Colleges in Virginia?
With large universities like Virginia Tech — and smaller schools like the Virginia Military Institute — the state offers students a wide variety of institutions and degree programs. Attending classes on-campus is often a smart decision for students who require a more structured learning environment, who would like to experience a traditional college social life, or who want to participate in collegiate extracurricular activities such as intramural sports. On-campus programs are also good options for those who can live on or near campus, and who can easily attend regular in-person classes and meetings.
In addition to the state’s many beautiful campuses, there are also several quality online colleges in Virginia. Online programs are a good idea for students who live far away from campus, who have family and career obligations, or who need to balance classes with a busy schedule. This is also a smart option for students who are self-motivated and require less structure in their learning experiences.
Online programs may involve synchronous or asynchronous learning. Synchronous learning refers to coursework that is delivered within a set time frame; often, synchronous courses require students to be online interacting with their instructor or peers at scheduled times. Asynchronous learning allows students to complete coursework at their own pace. Occasionally, online programs also have a few in-person components, such as lab or volunteer work.
For students who need more flexibility than traditional on-campus college experiences, hybrid programs are another valuable learning option. These programs offer a unique format that blends online learning with on-campus or in-person courses, labs, internships, or other activities. Many degrees, such as those in education or medicine, offer hybrid programs when coursework cannot be adequately taught solely through online classes.
Hybrid programs typically involve both synchronous and asynchronous learning, with certain courses taught exclusively online and other courses taught exclusively on-campus. This learning format often benefits students with semi-flexible schedules and who want to enjoy the advantages of both online learning and traditional on-campus life.
Popular Degree Programs in Virginia
Each of Virginia’s geographical regions features industries distinct to its location. The coastal region’s strongest industries include shipbuilding, tourism, and military bases, the latter of which employs more people than any other industry in the state. Other regions in Virginia have strong industries in farming, coal, and technology. Both traditional and online colleges in Virginia often offer degree options that align with — and offer connections to — professionals in these industries.
This interdisciplinary major studies the complex ways global, domestic, and regional communities interact with one another politically, economically, and culturally. Because of the state’s close proximity to Washington, D.C., many Virginia schools offer an array of resources and opportunities for internships, travel, and other educational experiences in the field of international relations.
Economics involves the study of economic theories and methods, capitalism, and analysis of trade and manufacturing. This major’s popularity is partly due to the state’s strong coal, farming, and technology industries. Washington, D.C. is also a major draw, with several academic and governmental resources in the field of economics.
Best Online Colleges in Virginia for 2017
Finding the right college for your academic, financial, and career needs and goals can be overwhelming. This section provides you with a list of the best online schools in Virginia, with information about the structure of the online programs, noteworthy programs, admission requirements, and unique facts about each school. The list also provides you with convenient statistics for each college. If you are interested in enrolling at one the many quality online schools in Virginia, this guide can help you find a school that fits your educational needs.
University of VirginiaCharlottesville, VA
Admissions Rate 30%
Default Rate 2%
Retention Rate 97%
Graduation Rate 93%
Online Enrollment 3%
Located in Charlottesville, UVA offers several online degrees, including two bachelor’s degrees, five undergraduate certificates, and eight graduate certificates. The two online bachelor’s programs, the bachelor of interdisciplinary studies (BIS) and the bachelor of professional studies in health management (BPHM), have different admission requirements. The BIS requires that students have graduated from high school at least four years prior to applying. Applicants to this program must have completed at least 60 transferable credits with a minimum 2.0 GPA. The BPHM requires students to have earned an associate degree in a related field with 60 transferable credits and a minimum 3.0 GPA.
BIS and BPHM students pay the same tuition regardless of state residency. Several scholarships, financial aid, and payment plans are available. Students at this online college in Virginia have access to resources including the library and disability services.
Liberty UniversityLynchburg, VA
Admissions Rate 22%
Default Rate 7%
Retention Rate 75%
Graduation Rate 47%
Online Enrollment 82%
Providing online programs in nearly every discipline, Liberty offers 12 associate, 121 bachelor’s, 125 master’s, and 41 doctoral degrees, as well as 28 certificates and specializations. Liberty’s classes are delivered asynchronously in eight-week terms. Most programs can be completed entirely online. The online courses have a student-to-faculty ratio of 17:1, meaning students receive individualized attention. Students can transfer in up to 75% of their bachelor’s degree credits, with credit also awarded for professional training.
All students pay the same per-credit rate regardless of residency, and 87% of students are awarded financial aid. Full-time students pay a lower rate than part-time students. Academic support for online students includes the library, writing support, and study aids. Study aids can help students with goal setting, exam preparation, and time management tools.
Regent UniversityVirginia Beach, VA
Admissions Rate 84%
Default Rate 5%
Retention Rate 80%
Graduation Rate 49%
Online Enrollment 66%
In addition to the 120 degrees offered on the Virginia Beach campus, Regent offers more than 70 programs online. Students can pursue degrees in business, healthcare, information systems technology, or psychology. Undergraduate online classes meet for eight-week terms through the Blackboard platform. The average class size is 17 students. While most learning activities such as discussion boards are asynchronous, students also have the option to participate in synchronous lectures.
Unlike most online colleges in Virginia, Regent’s tuition rate is the same for in-state and out-of-state students. Online students may also be eligible for financial aid and institutional scholarships. Founded in 1978, Regent is currently the fastest-growing school in the country; the school has a total enrollment of nearly 10,000 students, of which about 4,500 are undergraduates.
George Mason UniversityFairfax, VA
Admissions Rate 69%
Default Rate 2%
Retention Rate 87%
Graduation Rate 69%
Online Enrollment 4%
GMU is located 15 miles from Washington, DC in Fairfax, Virginia. It is the largest public research university in the state, offering 200 degrees on campus. The university has more than 50 online and hybrid degrees in areas such as business, education, health, and engineering and technology. Degree completion programs are available for students with transferable credits. Courses may be synchronous or asynchronous and are delivered through Blackboard.
Students at this online school in Virginia are charged per-credit-hour tuition, with different rates for in-state and out-of-state students. Online learners receive technical support from the ITS Support Center; academic support from the Center for Academic Advising, Retention, and Transitions; and university library support from librarians who are available through instant message, phone, or email.
Old Dominion UniversityNorfolk, VA
Admissions Rate 83%
Default Rate 6%
Retention Rate 82%
Graduation Rate 53%
Online Enrollment 19%
ODU has an enrollment of 24,500 students spread across the Norfolk campus, regional locations, and online. The university has been offering distance education options for over 30 years and boasts over 14,000 distance education graduates. ODU offers online bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate, and certificate programs in areas such as business, computer science, communication, and social science. Online classes are delivered through Blackboard. Courses may be synchronous or asynchronous, with online terms generally following the typical semester schedule. While in-state and out-of-state students are charged different rates, the out-of-state rate is only slightly higher.
Online students at this online school in Virginia have access to the writing center, which offers virtual meetings and online tutorials. Online students can receive tutoring and participate in peer study groups through web conferencing and online appointments.
Averett UniversityDanville, VA
|Admissions Rate 55%||Default Rate 11%||Graduation Rate 100%||Online Enrollment 64%||
Offering online programs in business, nursing, education, leadership, and criminal justice, Averett’s programs are specifically designed for students who are balancing work and family responsibilities. The Moodle platform allows 24/7 access to courses, which are delivered asynchronously. Student success counselors work with online students throughout their studies. Those who need extra assistance can take advantage of tutoring provided by Smarthinking.
All students pay the same per-credit rate, regardless of residency. Averett offers a guaranteed tuition program that allows students who maintain continuous, full-time enrollment to “lock in” their initial tuition rate. Financial aid is available, and students are automatically considered for scholarships when they apply. The college also provides free transfer evaluations for prospective students and will accept up to 60 transfer credits. The online college in Virginia accepts credit earned through regionally-accredited institutions, tests, and military service.
Virginia Commonwealth UniversityRichmond, VA
Admissions Rate 79%
Default Rate 6%
Retention Rate 86%
Graduation Rate 62%
Online Enrollment 3%
Founded in 1838 in Richmond, VCU currently serves over 30,000 students. In addition to on campus programs, the university offers bachelor’s, master’s, certificate, and doctoral degrees online. Programs are delivered through Blackboard in a variety of styles including entirely online courses with asynchronous learning, hybrid courses, and synchronous online video conference classes. VCU has three online bachelor’s degrees: a hybrid clinical laboratory sciences degree completion program; a clinical laboratory science distance education program; and an RN to BSN degree completion program.
At this online college in Virginia students can take advantage of the Campus Learning Center, writing center, and IT support center, which offers 24/7 phone support as well as assistance through email and live chat. Online students can also utilize the career center, which offers appointments over the phone and through Skype.
Hampton UniversityHampton, VA
Admissions Rate 69%
Default Rate 12%
Retention Rate 81%
Graduation Rate 65%
Online Enrollment 3%
Online learning options at Hampton U include certificate, associate, master’s, doctoral, and bachelor’s programs. The university offers bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees as well as accelerated RN to BSN programs. Courses are delivered asynchronously through Blackboard and operate on eight-week and 16-week terms. Undergraduate full-time students can complete their degree in four years, though students with transfer credit may complete programs more quickly. Hampton U may accept transfer credit from regionally-accredited colleges, including other online schools in Virginia. The schools also grants credit for military and corporate training, exams, and life or work experience.
Students at this online college in Virginia may be eligible for state, federal, or institutional financial aid. Online students are charged a flat, per-credit rate, and a deferred payment plan is available.
Bluefield CollegeBluefield, VA
Admissions Rate 93%
Default Rate 8%
Retention Rate 54%
Graduation Rate 39%
Online Enrollment 48%
Located in the Appalachian Mountain region, Bluefield College offers over 40 bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Online undergraduate programs include bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice, early childhood education, human services, management and leadership, an RN to BSN nursing degree, and several certificate options. For most online undergraduate programs, students can qualify for admission with a 2.0 GPA, a high school diploma or GED, and certain prerequisite courses in English and math.
Online students pay a per-credit rate and are eligible for merit and need-based financial aid. Students at this online school in Virginia have access to library resources and highly qualified professors. Online courses have an 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio. Eight-week terms allow students to quickly complete their degree.
Averett UniversityDanville, VA
|Admissions Rate 61%||Default Rate 11%||Retention Rate 70%||Graduation Rate 34%||
Averett University offers online degree programs for traditional students, working professionals, and older students. For adult learners the university offers IDEAL, or the Individually Designed Education for Adult Learners Program. This program assigns each student an advisor who helps them design a unique course of study. Averett currently offers six online bachelor’s degrees. Courses can be taken online, as independent study, or through other colleges. Undergraduate students must complete 120 credits, with at least 30 credits completed at Averett.
Students can range from those with no college experience to those who have completed an associate degree. Averett also serves current and former military members. Applicants without college credit should have a high school GPA of 2.25, and transfer students should have a GPA of 2.0.
How We Ranked the Schools
To determine the best programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the best online master’s in management information systems programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.
Education Trends in Virginia
Virginia spends less annually on each full-time college student than the national average, and the state’s percentage of tax revenue allocated to higher education is also less than the national average. However, Virginia’s residents tend to be better educated than the average adult in the U.S., with 21% of adults over the age of 25 holding a bachelor’s degree and 15.4% of adults holding a graduate degree.
|Source: SHEEO and U.S. Census|
|Postsecondary Education Spending per Full-Time Student||$4,911||$6,954|
|Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education||4.75%||5.8%|
|Percentage of adults over 25 with associate degree||7.3%||8.1%|
|Percentage of adults over 25 with bachelor’s degree||21%||18.5%|
|Percentage of adults over 25 with graduate degree or higher||15.4%||11.2%|
Paying for College in Virginia
Tuition costs are one of the most important factors to consider when choosing either an on-campus or an online college. Virginia’s average tuition of $12,323 per year at a four-year institution falls slightly above the national average. However, many of the state’s university towns have relatively affordable costs of living, which can reduce the overall annual costs. Additionally, through financial aid and application support, the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia supports students and parents paying tuition to Virginia colleges.
Tuition costs in Virginia are slightly above the national average, although the state’s average tuition is still far from the most expensive in the nation. It’s also important to keep in mind that the table below does not include costs for books, transportation, rent, food, or other cost-of-living items.
No matter where you live, financial aid is always a possibility to help finance your degree. The first step is to complete a FAFSA form, which determines your eligibility for federal grants, scholarships, and loans. There are also several private organizations and lenders that offer funding for college students.
Loans are borrowed money that you will eventually repay with interest. Scholarships, on the other hand, do not need to be repaid, and money is often awarded based on academic merit. Similarly, grants do not need to be repaid, and are based on a student’s financial needs or academic merits. Because it is essentially free money, scholarships and grants should be pursued first when considering financial aid for college.
Cost for Online Programs in Virginia
Financial aid opportunities, including FAFSA applications, scholarships, and grants, are available for students in both on-campus programs and online programs in Virginia. While the tuition for online programs and on-campus programs may be the same, students can often save money attending online programs. Students enrolled in online programs in Virginia can save money on transportation, rent, and childcare, while living in convenient, affordable locations that fit their career, financial, and family needs.
Cost of Living by Region
Depending on where you choose to go to college, your cost of living will vary. Cost of living can have a significant impact on the overall cost of a college education, as it includes daily expenses like food, rent, transportation, books, and technology needs. These expenses can add to student debt and affect your career options after graduation. In general, large cities tend to have a higher cost of living than small towns in rural areas. Many Virginia cities and towns also have a lower cost of living than other east coast cities.
Scholarships for Virginia College Students
- Lee-Jackson Foundation Scholarship
$1,000-10,000; must be a Virginia high school student preparing to enroll in a four-year Virginia college.
- Granville P. Meade Scholarship
$2,000; awarded to high-achieving high school seniors from low-income homes in Virginia, and who are starting programs at private or public Virginia universities.
- Virginia Commonwealth Award
Amounts vary; must be a Virginia resident admitted into a two or four-year Virginia college, and who demonstrates adequate financial need.
- Virginia Department of Transportation Engineer Scholarship
$7,000; awarded to civil engineering majors attending a Virginia college or technical school.
- Virginia Department of Health Nursing Scholarships
Amount varies; must be enrolled in a Virginia nursing program, such as LPN, RN, or advanced practitioner degree programs.
- Virginia Guaranteed Assistance Program
Amount varies; awarded to students enrolled in two and four-year universities who demonstrate financial need.
- Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship
Amount varies; awarded to individuals who, due to schools closing in order to avoid desegregation, were denied educations in Virginia schools between 1954 and 1964.
- Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program
Amount varies; must be an active military member or the child or spouse of a military member, as well as a Virginia resident and a student at a Virginia college or university.
- Tobacco Region Loan Forgiveness Program
Amount varies; must be a Virginia resident from the southern regions of Virginia and enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program in Virginia.
- Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program
Amount varies; awarded to Virginia college graduates who plan to teach in one of the state’s critical-shortage teaching areas.
- Virginia Child Care Provider Scholarship
$3,570; must be a childcare provider attending undergraduate courses in a field related to early education at one of Virginia’s colleges.
- Virginia National Guard
$8,000; must be a member of the Virginia National Guard.
- Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Visual Arts Fellowships
$2,000-$6,000; awarded to undergraduate students pursuing studies in the arts at Virginia colleges.
- Esperanza Scholarship
$5,000-$20,000; must have been born outside of the U.S. or have two parents born outside of the U.S.; must be a graduating high school senior or recent GED graduate from Virginia.
- Mike Johnson Scholarship
$2,000; must be an undergraduate or graduate student studying a field related to the environment at a Virginia college.
- Charles H. Koch Jr. Scholarship
$5,000; awarded to students seeking foreign affairs internships and who are enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia.
- Jefferson Scholars Foundation
$150,000-$280,000; awarded to students admitted into the University of Virginia and nominated for the award by professionals at their high school.
- Virginia College Career Training Scholarship for Working Students
$500-$1,000; must be enrolled at Virginia College and have completed at least two years of employment.
- Davenport Leadership Scholarships
$7,000; must be a freshman engineering student at Virginia Tech who demonstrates academic excellence.
- Pratt Scholarship
$5,000; must be a first-generation college student who is enrolled at Virginia Tech.
Can all Scholarships be Used for Online Programs?
Most scholarships can be used for any type of program at on-campus or online colleges in Virginia. To make sure that you are eligible for a particular scholarship, check each award’s guidelines. You should also consider which scholarships might be available through the Virginia college you choose, as many schools offer special funding for their enrolled students. Finally, colleges often offer scholarships for students pursuing specific, high-need fields, such as math, science, engineering, or environmental studies.
Employment Outlook in Virginia
Virginia’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average, and its annual mean wage is slightly higher than the national average. This data indicates the state has a favorable amount of job opportunities for recent college graduates. The state’s top industries are agriculture, aerospace, and real estate. Additionally, while not mentioned in the charts below, Virginia maintains large mining, technology, and retail trade industries. These industries offer several career and internship opportunities for students interested in pursuing the fields of engineering, aerospace, information technology, business, and economics. For example, NASA Langley in Hampton, VA offers several internship and fellowship opportunities through its student programs.
|Source: BLS and BLS|
|Unemployment Rate, May 2017||3.8%||4.3%|
|Annual Mean Wage, May 2016||$53,090||$49,630|
Top Employers and Industries in Virginia
- Agriculture : According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, agriculture is the state’s largest industry, earning $70 billion per year and providing over 334,000 jobs. Farmland covers around 32% of Virginia’s landscape.
- Aerospace: There are over 285 aerospace companies in Virginia. YesVirginia.org identifies this industry as one of the largest in the state. The aerospace industry goes back to 1917, when the first civil aeronautics laboratory in the country was established in Hampton.
- Real Estate: According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the largest industry in Virginia in 2016 was the real estate industry, which includes the finance, insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing sectors.
Top Employers in Virginia
- U.S. Department of Defense: The DOD employs more people than any other industry in the state. The Pentagon is located in Arlington, and the state is home to multiple other military establishments, including Norfolk’s large naval base.
- Walmart: This global corporation maintains an active presence in Virginia’s major cities and, according to its website, employs over 45,000 people throughout the state. Because of Walmart and several other retail establishments, retail trade is another of the state’s larger industries.
- Fairfax County Public Schools: The Fairfax school system is home to over 200,000 students, making it the 10th largest school district in the country. According to Fairfax County, they employ around 27,500 individuals and has one of the largest organization of bus drivers in the U.S.
Accreditation for Colleges in Virginia
It’s crucial to make sure that any on-campus or online college you choose to attend in Virginia is accredited. Accreditation is a rigorous process that ensures colleges comply with a set of academic standards. Attending an accredited institution is important because many graduate programs and employers do not accept degrees from nonaccredited schools. Additionally, an accredited school guarantees that you receive a quality education.
Schools in the U.S. can be nationally or regionally accredited. While both types of accreditation have value, regional accreditation is more prestigious. While nationally accredited schools accept degrees from institutions with either national or regional accreditation, regionally accredited schools only accept degrees from other schools with regional accreditation.
Online schools in Virginia undergo the same accreditation process as on-campus programs. When choosing an online school in this state, look for universities that are regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. This agency accredits colleges in Virginia and other states in the southern United States.
Resources for Students in Virginia
- State Council of HIgher Education for Virginia: This council coordinates Virginia’s higher education system and provides resources for students to find the right schools for their needs and prepare and pay for college.
- Gear Up Virginia: GUV increases college enrollment in Virginia by supporting low-income families and communities. Gear Up offers college preparatory classes to middle school and high school students, and supports college students during their first year of enrollment.
- Virginia Department of Veterans Services: This resource helps veterans transition into college. The website offers tips on how to find specialized mental health services, academic strategies, and more.
- Transitions Services for Students with Disabilities: Part of the Virginia Department of Education, this organization provides college planning resource guides for individuals with disabilities interested in or already enrolled in on-campus or online schools in Virginia. The website provides links for legal resources, as well as a guide to disability-friendly colleges.
- Southern Regional Education Board Electronic Campus and Adult Learners: The Southern Regional Education Board works with states in the southern U.S. to improve the quality of higher education. This website provides support for nontraditional students interested in or already attending one of the many online schools in Virginia.