Virginia ranked 14th in the nation for the most post-secondary institutions with 173 accredited career schools, colleges and universities in 2013. The state placed 11th nationally for total student volume as it supplied students with certificate, undergraduate and graduate degree programs. To put it into perspective, one out of every 37 U.S. college students attended a school in Virginia. From religious schools to online colleges, from junior colleges to four-year universities, the allure of the state’s system of higher learning lies in its range of institutions:
|College Type||Number in Virginia|
|Private not-for-profit (religious affiliation)||25|
|Private not-for-profit (no religious affiliation)||15|
Top Locations for Postsecondary Education in Virginia
From mid-sized cities to major urban areas, Virginia colleges find various places to call home. The following lists present data on the number of colleges and students per city:
Most Popular Cities for College Students (Total)
- Norfolk (82,700)
- Annandale (77,500)
- Lynchburg (70,300)
- Richmond (53,800)
- Fairfax (33,100)
Virginia Cities with the Most Colleges (Total)
- Richmond (18)
- Arlington (13)
- Norfolk (11)
- Virginia Beach (11)
- Lynchburg (8)
At a Glance: Virginia Beach Colleges and Universities
According to the U.S. Census, Virginia Beach exceeds the national average for higher education attainment: 28.1 percent of its residents over the age of 25 hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to the national average of 24 percent. Given the high quality institutions in the area, that statistic is no surprise. Regent University, for example, describes itself as “one of the nation’s leading academic centers for Christian thought and action,” and is one of only 22 universities to receive an “A” rating by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). Additionally, the university’s School of Law has received numerous accolades, including “Top 10 Faculty in the Nation” by The Princeton Review (2013), and their Moot Court team finished top 2 globally at Oxford’s Price Media Law Moot Court Programme. There is one community college in Virginia Beach, Tidewater Community College (TCC), which is one of 23 colleges that make up the Virginia Community College System. The city is also home to a number of technical and trade schools, such as the Virginia Tech Hampton Roads Center.
Online Learning in Virginia Beach
Virginia Beach also has a number of online education options for those interested in distance learning. Regent University has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report for its online bachelor’s programs, with its online bachelor’s programs for veterans earning the no. 8 spot. The university offers a number of online undergraduate and graduate degrees in a range of academic areas. Classes are delivered and managed through Blackboard and, on average, consist of 17 online students. Tidewater Community College also has an eLearning program, offering a number of non-traditional options. Students can choose from fully online courses that are delivered through Blackboard, hybrid courses that utilize both online coursework and traditional campus meetings, and technology-enhanced courses, which are classes that meet on-campus regularly, but incorporate online activities and assignments. Lastly, Atlantic University offers online graduate degrees and certificates as well as non-credit continuing education courses.
Virginia Distance Education Options
In 2013, Virginia accommodated 18 four-year colleges and universities that offered some type of online or distance education. For example, the University of Virginia at Wise (UVa-Wise) offers a variety of online courses to new students, adult learners, and those simply interested in finding out what distance learning is all about. Online learning has featured prominently on the horizon of higher learning, and now that technology has caught up with the demand, many traditional schools present online programs, allowing students to earn degrees and certificates without setting foot on campus.
Paying for College: Tuition, Fees and Cost of Living
College costs can be intimidating, to say the least, and prospective students should be cognizant of the full scope of this cost. By and large, tuition is the main player when it comes to degree-related expenses, and it varies by school and student residency. The average Virginia student in 2012 paid $13,138 per year, putting Virginia at 19th in the U.S. for the most affordable in-state tuition.
After tuition and fees, the third big budget item is the cost of living associated with higher learning. For on-campus students, this takes the shape of room and board, and for off-campus students, expenses include housing, utilities, food and transportation. Virginia’s cost of living index is about 4 percent lower than the U.S. average, which is good news for students trying to stretch their dollars. Below is a regional breakdown of the COL in Virginia’s cities as they compare to the national average (100):
|Urban Area||Composite Index||Housing||Groceries||Utilities||Transportation||Health Care||Misc.|
|Hampton Roads-SE Virginia||11.7%||21.9%||6.6%||8.4%||4.1%||9.6%||8.4%|
There are many colleges and universities in the Commonwealth, but which ones offer lasting value on your educational investment? We’ve taken the guesswork out of it for you in creating this list of the top colleges in Virginia based on ROI (low cost tuition and fees combined with lifelong earnings of graduates):
- Washington and Lee University
- Virginia Tech
- The College of William and Mary
- University of Virginia
- George Mason University
FAFSA and Scholarships
For Virginia students who wish to make paying for a college degree more reasonable, a few options are available in the national, state and private sector arenas. In 2012, 67 percent of students in the state profited from federal aid after filing the proper FAFSA forms. Federal aid can open doors for students who are in need or otherwise out of luck when it comes to financing college.
Scholarships present another opportunity for financial assistance to Virginia college students. Supportive and generous private companies and organizations seek to promote education by donating money to worthy students. These funds often pay for tuition, fees and even textbooks, and some scholarships are offered by the colleges themselves. Find out more about some of the major financial backers in the state of Virginia:
- The Virginia Golf Foundation
- Carville M. Akehurst Memorial
- Virginia Commonwealth Awards
- The Virginia Lakes and Watersheds Association
- Elizabeth J. & William R. Bruce, Sr. Memorial
- Lee-Jackson Educational Foundation
- The Virginia War Orphans Education Program
- River Farm
- Vincent J. Thomas Memorial
- The Mid-Atlantic Security Traders Foundation
- NACA Southeast Student Leadership
- The Lighthouse
- Virginia Library Association
Accreditation in Virginia
The ability of Virginia colleges to accept federal or scholarship financial aid is based in part on the college’s accreditation. Each school must meet certain criteria, certain quality standards, to garner the label of “accredited.” The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools(http://www.sacs.org) serves as the main regional accrediting force in Virginia, verifying that schools adhere to common standards. In addition to institutional accreditation by a regional accrediting body, many institutions in Virginia also hold programmatic or specialized accreditation for individual programs, colleges, or departments. The Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, for example, is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.
At AC Online, we always urge students to find an online program that suits their financial budget. Students in Virginia enjoy some of the country's most affordable online education options, but also some of the most innovative. Read our interview with Radford University about what sets them apart, and what the future holds for online learning.
How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?
The MFA in Design Thinking is Radford University’s newest 100% online program. At Radford, we approach online teaching with the student in mind. Our program is predominately taught using an asynchronous format so that individuals who work can access our course materials 24 hours, 7-days a week. Knowing that the online learner may need face-to-face contact, our faculty are always accessible. Many of the faculty in our program hold Skype sessions and use other forms of technology (e.g., Adobe Connect, Second Life, Facebook) to give students a more personalized approach to the class.
Another benefit to our program, is that it is taught by faculty who have a strong background in design, on-ground teaching, and online training. While all of our faculty have received numerous hours of training in developing, implementing, and teaching online, a strength and uniqueness to our program is that it is taught by experienced designers. Many existing programs that teach design thinking do not have seasoned designers as instructors. Furthermore, our class sizes are small which allows us to personally know our students in order to build a community of design thinking learners.
Ranking: Most Affordable Online Colleges in Virginia
Virginia boasts what were some of the first online learning programs in the United States offered by four-year accredited online colleges. Online degree programs in Virginia cater to their students with flexible schedules and convenient admissions. And just like their on-campus counterparts, these programs offer similar tuition assistance and rigorous admissions requirements. Due to the equivalent course expectations and curriculum, online schools in Virginia also grant degrees and certifications that match those issued on-campus. Prospective students can use our list to compare Virginia online colleges. Ordered from lowest to highest tuition, each of these schools provides an excellent online education.Click here to see our methodology.