Best Colleges in Virginia in 2024

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Officially known as the Commonwealth of Virginia, this state boasts a long and rich history of education, with some of the best colleges in Virginia. Prospective students have their pick of colleges and universities, historically Black universities, and higher education institutions with online learning options.

Virginia offers some of the best universities in the nation that you may shortlist in your college search, whether you are looking for schools with exciting campus life opportunities or a career-focused city life. The rich array of public and private schools and universities in Virginia offer quality education, regardless of whether you're interested in a specific major or applying undeclared. Ahead, explore the best colleges in Virginia by public school, private school, community college, field of study, and more.

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Best Public Colleges in Virginia

The University of Virginia

Location: Charlottesville, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 17,496

Acceptance rate: 18%

The University of Virginia is a public school founded by Thomas Jefferson and is known as one of the best colleges in the state. UVA consistently ranks among the top five best public national universities. This Virginia university covers 100% of the student body's financial need. The graduation rate is 94.7%, above the national average. This is one of the larger universities in the state, with a total enrollment of 23,721. The net price to attend this school is $39,494 for in-state students and $79,574 for out-of-state students.

William & Mary

Location: Williamsburg, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,716

Acceptance rate: 33%

William & Mary is a public research university with arts & sciences programs and four graduate/professional schools in business, education, law, and marine science. 80% of the undergraduate student body participates in research mentored by faculty, and more than 1,100 students dedicated 11,840 hours to community engagement projects over the past two years. The graduation rate is 90.1%, above the national average. Tuition is $18,252 for in-state students and $42,053 for out-of-state students, with additional fees and housing costs of about $12,000. William & Mary graduates do well in the job market, with more than half employed full-time and a large percentage attaining advanced degrees.

Virginia Tech

Location: Blacksburg, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 30,434

Acceptance rate: 56%

Virginia Tech is a public land-grant university that offers 280 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, with a research portfolio of over $556 million. Virginia Tech ranks in the top 5% of universities in the U.S. for research, among one of two universities in Virginia in the top 50. The graduation rate is 86%. The net price of attending this school is $37,252 for in-state students and $58,750 for out-of-state students.

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George Mason University

Location: Fairfax, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 27,014

Acceptance rate: 91.3%

George Mason University is a public research university with an acceptance rate of 89%. GMU was the first university in the nation to offer doctoral programs in conflict resolution, information technology, bioinformatics, and computational social science, and it offers 132 degree programs at the master's, doctoral, and professional levels. This school has one of the top criminal justice programs among colleges and universities nationwide. The graduation rate is 70%. Tuition is $13,812 for in-state students and $37,976 for out-of-state students, with additional fees for housing and meal plans.

Virginia Commonwealth University

Location: Richmond, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 20,958

Acceptance rate: 92%

With a student-faculty ratio of 17:1, Virginia Commonwealth University offers more than 200 degree programs. Nearly one-third of the student body is Pell-eligible, and the majority of the student body receives financial aid. Virginia Commonwealth University is one of the best colleges in Virginia for nursing and criminal justice and nationally ranks as one of the most innovative schools. The graduation rate is 66%. The net price of attending is $31,389.

colleges in virginia girl in library

James Madison University

Location: Harrisonburg, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 20,346

Acceptance rate: 86%

James Madison University is a public school serving over 21,000 students and was named the #1 best college for Employment in Virginia by the U.S. Department of Education statistics. The graduation rate is 84%. In-state tuition and fees are $25,840, including housing costs, and out-of-state students pay $43,054.

Virginia Military Institute

Location: Lexington, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,512

Acceptance rate: 64%

As the oldest state-supported military college in the U.S., Virginia Military Institute educates citizen soldiers with a four-year core curriculum and 14 degree programs. Since 2001, U.S. News & World Report has ranked VMI among the nation's top 100 liberal arts colleges. This is one of the best colleges in Virginia for those looking to pursue military careers. The graduation rate is 79%. The total tuition and fees, including housing and food costs, are $28,078 for in-state students and $58,780 for out-of-state students.

Norfolk State University

Location: Norfolk, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 5,337

Acceptance rate: 88%

Norfolk State University ranks among the top 20 historically Black colleges and universities and among the top 25 public schools. This school is a top performer in social mobility and one of the best colleges for veterans. The graduation rate is 40%. The cost of attendance for in-state students is $26,710, including room and board, and $38,638 for out-of-state students.

Radford University

Location: Radford, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,008

Acceptance rate: 83%

Radford University is set in a large rural campus and offers 16 Division I sports teams as well as a low student-to-faculty ratio of 12:1. Graduates from this school do well in the job market, with 87% pursuing careers directly related to their degrees. The graduation rate is 54%. The cost of attendance is $29,446 for in-state students, including housing, and $42,345 for out-of-state students.

Virginia State University

Location: Petersburg, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 4,242

Acceptance rate: 96%

Virginia State University is ranked among the top 20 historically Black colleges and universities, the top 20 public schools, and the top 25 best-value schools. This school also ranks among the top 30 performers on social mobility, with its most popular majors being criminal justice, psychology, and business administration and management. The graduation rate is 31%. The cost of attendance is $21,645 for in-state students, including room and board, and $33,896 for out-of-state students.

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private colleges in virginia two female students studying

Best Private Colleges in Virginia

Washington and Lee University

Location: Lexington, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,867

Acceptance rate: 18.8%

Established in 1749, Washington and Lee University is a nationally ranked private liberal arts college and is the 9th oldest college in the nation. W&L serves a student body from 49 states on a large 430-acre campus. This school has a reputation as one of the best liberal arts schools out of all the colleges and universities in America. Tuition is $63,315, with a total cost of attendance of $87,000.

University of Richmond

Location: Richmond, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 3,145

Acceptance rate: 28.8%

As a private liberal arts college, the University of Richmond has a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1. Richmond is need-blind in admission, so the school strives to meet all of the students' demonstrated needs. The average need-based award is $55,600. Tuition is $62,600, and the total cost of attendance is $81,320.

Virginia Union University

Location: Richmond, VA

Undergraduate enrollment:

Acceptance rate: 81%

Virginia Union University is a historically Black university and faith-based institution affiliated with the American Baptist church. Founded in 1865, VUU is one of the oldest historically Black universities in the South. This school ranks among the top 60 in social mobility and among the top 40 historically Black colleges and universities. Tuition is $14,230.

Liberty University

Location: Lynchburg, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 48,906

Acceptance rate: 99.3%

Operating as a private evangelical and online university, Liberty University serves over 30,000 military students and a total enrollment of over 100,000 across in-person and online programs. The school is located on a very large campus of 7,000 acres. The average cost to attend this school after aid is $29,000, and students have over 700 unique programs of study to choose from — some of which are available online. Tuition is $23,800 for the residential program, with additional costs for housing, while online costs vary by course and program.

community colleges in virginia picture of church

Best Community Colleges in Virginia

Piedmont Virginia Community College

Location: Charlottesville, VA

Total enrollment: 5,312

PVCC is a two-year public community that offers associate degrees, one-year certificates, continuing education, and workforce training through its trade school. Annually, over 500 students transfer to a four-year university, and PVCC was named a top 10 military-friendly school from 2020-2021.

Rappahannock Community College

Location: Glenns, VA

Total enrollment: 2,588

As a public community college with two campuses, RCC has dual enrollment courses that are available to high schoolers and workforce programs in areas like agriculture, architecture, transportation, and more. Its trade schools' programs include a variety of certificates preparing students for advanced manufacturing and skilled trades.

Central Virginia Community College

Location: Lynchburg, Virginia

Total enrollment: 3,370

Established in 1966, CVCC boasts 80 career certificate programs and associate degree options, as well as a Remote Learning Center that gives the student body access to online courses and resources. As a two-year college, CVCC offers Open Educational Resources (OER), where students can gain access to free digital text materials after signing up for an OER course. Its trade schools' programs include a range of concentrations such as mechatronics, plumbing, welding, electrical technology, HVAC installation skills, and commercial driver's license training.

online colleges in virginia girl studying on computer with friend

Best Online Colleges in Virginia

Liberty University

Location: Lynchburg, VA

Liberty University serves a total enrollment of over 100,000 across its in-person and online programs. LU offers a range of degrees 100% online, including master's and doctoral programs. This school is a great option for anyone with a current career looking to earn a second degree or change careers.

ECPI University

Location: Virginia Beach, VA

ECPI University offers hands-on learning and accelerated degree options where students can earn their bachelor's degree in just 2.5 years. As a private, for-profit school, ECPI offers study programs to further students' career goals. This school has a top online criminal justice program and industry-respected programs in technology, health science, business, and nursing.

Old Dominion University

Location: Norfolk, VA

Operating as a public, four-year university, Old Dominion University serves a large student body, 25% of which are military-affiliated. Old Dominion University has three extended higher education centers and reported that 94% of graduates were employed or in graduate school six months after graduation. Its programs are geared towards working professionals looking to attain advanced degrees, military service members, and undergraduates returning to school after time away.

Regent University

Location: Virginia Beach, VA

As a private Christian institution, Regent University allows individuals to choose from over 150 degrees at any education level, either through an online program or in person. Regent was voted #1 in the best online bachelor's programs in Virginia by U.S. News & World Report, and transfer students can transfer up to 90 credit hours from their previous school.

George Mason University

Location: Fairfax, VA

George Mason University is a public research university ranked among the top 3 public universities for online master's programs. GMU offers more than 50 full and hybrid online programs, including business & management, education, engineering & technology, health, science & math, and social sciences degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

colleges in virginia for nursing girl looking at tablet

Best Colleges in Virginia for Nursing

The University of Virginia

Location: Charlottesville, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 17,496

As a public school and one of the best colleges in Virginia, the University of Virginia offers an excellent, top-ranked education to students all over the world. The School of Nursing offers both bachelor's degree and master's degree programs in nursing, as well as DNP and PhD programs.

James Madison University

Location: Harrisonburg, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 20,346

This institution is ranked as one of the best colleges in Virginia for its employment outcomes in Virginia according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Education. The School of Nursing offers bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and doctor of nursing practice programs, along with a chronic illness minor.

Shenandoah University

Location: Winchester, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,461

With over 200 areas of study, Shenandoah University is recognized for its student-centered programs, Virginia's first virtual reality design program, and its world-class conservatory. The Eleanor Wade Custer School of Nursing offers a range of undergraduate and graduate degree options, as well as graduate certificates in nurse-midwifery, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner training, and family nurse practitioner training.

colleges for biology in virginia biology student

Best Colleges for Biology in Virginia

The University of Virginia

Location: Charlottesville, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 17,496

The University of Virginia was founded by Thomas Jefferson and offers an excellent, top-ranked education to students all over the world. U.S. News & World Report named UVA #4 on its Best Public National University list for 2022, and UVA accepts students solely on academic merit and covers 100% of their financial need. This is one of the best universities in Virginia for studying biology, with an array of bachelor's degrees and graduate-level programs.

Washington and Lee University

Location: Lexington, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,867

Established in 1749, Washington and Lee University is a nationally ranked private liberal arts college and is the 9th oldest college in the nation. Its Biology Department offers both B.A. and B.S. degrees, as well as a range of biology minors in animal biology, ecology, molecular/cell biology, physiology, and quantitative biology.

Virginia Tech

Location: Blacksburg, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 30,434

Virginia Tech is a public land-grant university that offers 280 undergraduate and graduate programs and handles a research portfolio of over $556 million. Virginia Tech sits in the top 5% of universities in the U.S. for research and is one of two universities in Virginia that are in the top 50. The Department of Biological Sciences offers undergraduate and graduate-level programs with an emphasis on world-class research.

Hampton University

Location: Hampton, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 2,794

Hampton University is a private, historically black university with an acceptance rate of 80%. Founded as the Hampton Agricultural and Industrial School, Hampton University offers over 90 programs for its student population and is home to 16 research centers, including the Hampton University Research Proton Therapy Institute. Its biology degree options include a B.S. and M.S. in Biology, as well as an M.S. in Medical Science.

business colleges in virginia virginia state sign

Best Business Colleges in Virginia

Washington and Lee University

Location: Lexington, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 1,867

Established in 1749, Washington and Lee University is a nationally ranked private liberal arts school and is the 9th oldest college in the nation. With its motto — "Not unmindful of the future" —W&L serves over 1,800 full-time undergraduate students and a student population from 49 states. This school offers an array of bachelor's degree concentrations in business. top colleges

William & Mary

Location: Williamsburg, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,716

William & Mary is a public research university with arts & sciences programs and four graduate/professional schools in business, education, law, and marine science. 80% of the undergraduate student body participates in research mentored by faculty, and more than 1,100 students dedicated 11,840 hours to community engagement projects over the past two years. The Mason School of Business offers full-time, executive, and part-time MBA programs, as well as advanced degrees in related subfields and an undergraduate business program.

Regent University

Location: Virginia Beach, VA

Undergraduate enrollment:

As a private Christian institution, Regent University allows individuals to choose from over 150 degrees at any education level, either through an online program or in-person. Regent offers a B.S. in business degree program with nine different concentration options, in addition to a wide range of master's and doctorate programs with highly specialized concentrations.

accounting colleges in virginia girl on computer

Best Accounting Colleges in Virginia

University of Richmond

Location: Richmond, VA

Undergraduate enrollment:

The University of Richmond is a private liberal arts college with a student-to-faculty ratio of 8:1. The University of Richmond is need-blind in admission, so all the student-demonstrated need is met, and the average need-based award is $55,600.

The University of Virginia

Location: Charlottesville, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 17,496

As a public institution, the University of Virginia offers an excellent, top-ranked education to students all over the world. The McIntire School of Commerce offers an undergraduate concentration in accounting as well as a master's program in accounting.

James Madison University

Location: Harrisonburg, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 20,346

James Madison University serves over 21,000 students and was named the #1 best college for employment outcomes in Virginia by the U.S. Department of Education statistics. JMU ranks among the top 20 in top public colleges for accounting salaries. Their accounting program offers both bachelor's and master's degrees.

small colleges in virginia place in virginia

Best Small Colleges in Virginia

Hollins University

Location: Roanoke, VA

Total enrollment: 691

Hollins University is a liberal arts university that offers undergraduate programs to women and select graduate programs for women and men. 98% of full-time faculty have the highest degree in their field, and almost 50% of students complete at least one internship during their college career.

Shenandoah University

Location: Winchester, VA

Total enrollment: 4,287

With over 200 areas of study, Shenandoah University has received recognition for its student-centered programs, Virginia's first virtual reality design program, and a world-class conservatory. Shenandoah University leads the pack as one of the best universities in Virginia for studying music therapy, with a well-established bachelor's degree program in the subject.

Christopher Newport University

Location: Newport News, VA.

Total enrollment: 4,449

Christopher Newport University is a four-year liberal arts college that offers various bachelor's degrees, as well as some graduate programs that are available from five-year bachelor's to master's. Forbes listed Christopher Newport as one of America's Top Colleges, giving it a No.308 overall ranking.

best virginia colleges students studying

Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Colleges in Virginia

Is community college free in Virginia?

Not all community colleges in Virginia are tuition-free. However, in March 2021, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam introduced the G3 program — Get a Skill, Get a Job, Get Ahead — which allows Virginia residents who qualify for in-state tuition and make less than or equal to 400% of the Federal Poverty Level to attend college free of charge. Patrick & Henry Community College currently has the highest rate of G3 students on the workforce side.

How do you establish residency in Virginia for college?

Not all of Virginia's universities take residency into account. Though public schools consider residency when determining tuition, the majority of schools that are private do not.

In most cases, in order to establish residency to qualify for in-state tuition rates at public schools, you or a parent/legal guardian must prove that you have legal residence in Virginia and an intent to remain in the state to establish domicile.

Then, you must maintain a domicile in the state for at least 12 months prior to the start of classes. These requirements are subject to change, so check with the public schools you are considering to confirm their residency requirements.

How much is college in Virginia?

Tuition at public schools for in-state students averages $13,554, with a total average cost of $24,838, including room and board. At private institutions, tuition averages $51,052, excluding room and board. While tuition for public and private schools can be steep, scholarships and grants can lower the net price of attending college in Virginia.

You can hone your scholarship research to those most relevant to your goals and background by searching for scholarships by major or searching by state, age, and demographic information. To begin your scholarship search, check out these top Virginia scholarships!

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