Best Public Colleges in Virginia 2022

Best Public Colleges in Virginia 2022

Public colleges and universities account for almost 75 percent of all undergraduate students in the U.S. The best public colleges in Virginia provide broad access to reputable degree programs, affordable tuition, and sprawling educational communities.

Colleges and Universities in Virginia

Liberty University, a private Christian school in Lynchburg, is the largest school in Virginia, serving over 60,000 students. The largest public university, Virginia Tech, has a student population of about half that but offers many in-person degree programs as well as eight master’s programs and 19 certificate programs online. Students who attend Virginia Tech can pursue fields like engineering, criminal justice, education, and business.

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The majority of Virginia’s universities and colleges could be considered small schools, serving populations of less than 5,000 students. Included on this list are public schools, like Christopher Newport University in Newport News, and private schools, like Hampton University, a historically black university in Hampton. Though most of its higher education institutes charge tuition fees above the national average, Virginia offers several loan forgiveness programs for qualifying attorneys and medical, dental, behavioral health, and pharmaceutical professionals.

Virginia is perhaps most famous for its rich history — but the state is also home to many unique museums and famous landmarks. For example, those who love the classics can visit the Edgar Allen Poe Museum in Richmond. Those who harbor romantic dreams of espionage and intrigue might visit the CIA Museum in McLean. And, if you like your attractions random, you could check out Virginia’s 300-yard-long natural tunnel or its 29-ton spinning granite ball. While you’re here, you might consider attending one of the 78 colleges located in the state.

Learn more about Virginia’s higher education opportunities by checking out the state’s many colleges and universities.


What are Virginia’s Colleges & Universities?

Virginia’s Best Overall

What is the difference between public and private colleges?

Public and private colleges and universities operate under different business models. Public colleges and universities are owned by the state and receive both state and federal funding to operate. Private colleges and universities are private companies with private funding. If you’re looking at the pros and cons of private vs. public colleges, consider that many public colleges provide diverse course offerings, influential professors, and an excellent return on your investment.

Public colleges are schools that receive most of their funding from tax revenues. As a result, the cost of a bachelor’s degree at a public university is often lower than the equivalent cost at a private college — especially for students attending a public school in their home state. Attending a college in-state is usually the cheapest option. Private universities and colleges can be very competitive with their funding opportunities, so do not simply believe that private colleges are always going to be more expensive. According to National Center for Educational Statistics, the average annual cost (tuition, fees, room and board for full-time students) at a public university was slightly over $20,000. In contrast, private universities cost, on average, nearly $43,000 annually. But in the end, the cost of college comes down to each student’s academic and financial situation.

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This list is composed entirely of public colleges and universities that offer bachelor’s degrees. We’ve identified 15 public universities in Virginia. To be included in our list of the best public colleges in Virginia, shcools must receive direct funding from the state, be fully accredited, and offer a broad range of bachelor’s degress.

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Best Public Colleges in Virginia 2022

  1. #1

    University of Virginia

    Charlottesville , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    23%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1430/32

    What is University of Virginia known for?

    University of Virginia’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Literature
    • History
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Economics
    • Medical
    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #2

    George Mason University

    Fairfax , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    89%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    31K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/27

    What is George Mason University known for?

    George Mason University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Economics
    • Criminal Justice
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Sociology
    • Law
    • Earth Sciences
    • Philosophy
    • Engineering
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Virginia Tech

    Blacksburg , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    86%

    Student body

    36K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1285/28

    What is Virginia Tech known for?

    Virginia Tech’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Economics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science
    • Physics
    • Biology
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    William & Mary

    Williamsburg , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    42%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1415/32

    What is William & Mary known for?

    William & Mary’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • History
    • Literature
    • Physics
    • Political Science
    • Earth Sciences
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Economics
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    26K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1165/24

    What is Virginia Commonwealth University known for?

    Virginia Commonwealth University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Social Work
    • Medical
    • Anthropology
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Communications
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    Old Dominion University

    Norfolk , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    95%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    19K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1080/21

    What is Old Dominion University known for?

    Old Dominion University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Physics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Sociology
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Education
    • Economics
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    James Madison University

    Harrisonburg , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    82%

    Student body

    21K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1205/25

    What is James Madison University known for?

    James Madison University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Mathematics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Communications
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Nursing
    • Physics
    • Economics
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #8

    Radford University

    Radford , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    9K

    What is Radford University known for?

    Radford University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Social Work
    • Psychology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Medical
    • Communications
    • Biology
    • Economics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #9

    Virginia Military Institute

    Lexington , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    60%

    Graduation

    85%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1180/24

    What is Virginia Military Institute known for?

    Virginia Military Institute’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Literature
    • Physics
    • Economics
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #10

    Virginia State University

    Petersburg , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    96%

    Graduation

    46%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    920/17

    What is Virginia State University known for?

    Virginia State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Criminal Justice
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #11

    Christopher Newport University

    Newport News , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    80%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1195/24

    What is Christopher Newport University known for?

    Christopher Newport University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Physics
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Social Work
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #12

    University of Mary Washington

    Fredericksburg , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1180/26

    What is University of Mary Washington known for?

    University of Mary Washington’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Nursing
    • Education
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Physics
    • Economics
    • Anthropology
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #13

    Norfolk State University

    Norfolk , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    39%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    950/18

    What is Norfolk State University known for?

    Norfolk State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Criminal Justice
    • Communications
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Physics
    • Nursing
    • Political Science
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #14

    Longwood University

    Farmville , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    67%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1055/20

    What is Longwood University known for?

    Longwood University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Anthropology
    • Education
    • Economics
    • Criminal Justice
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Computer Science
    • Nursing
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1065/21

    What is University of Virginia's College at Wise known for?

    University of Virginia's College at Wise’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Medical
    • Business
    • Biology
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

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Virginia’s Best Public College in Your Area of Interest

2021 Ranking Archive

Many of our 2022 undergraduate focused rankings look considerably different than 2021. That’s because we took a fundamentally different apporach. For 2021 we utiulized our Concentrated Influence algorithm, designed to take away the size advantage larger schools have when we rank their faculty and alumni’s academic influence. Concentrated influence highlights smaller schools that are proportionally as successful as larger universities at cultivating influential alumni and faculty.

  1. University of Virginia
  2. William & Mary
  3. Virginia Military Institute
  4. George Mason University
  5. Virginia Tech
  6. Virginia Commonwealth University
  7. Virginia State University
  8. Norfolk State University
  9. University of Mary Washington
  10. James Madison University
  11. Old Dominion University
  12. Radford University
  13. Christopher Newport University
  14. University of Virginia's College at Wise
  15. Longwood University