Best Public Colleges in Virginia 2024

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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.

10 Best Public Colleges in Virginia

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  1. University of Virginia
  2. George Mason University
  3. Virginia Tech
  4. William & Mary
  5. Virginia Commonwealth University
  6. Old Dominion University
  7. James Madison University
  8. Radford University
  9. Virginia Military Institute
  10. Virginia State University
  1. University of Virginia
  2. George Mason University
  3. William & Mary
  4. Virginia Tech
  5. Virginia Commonwealth University
  6. Virginia Military Institute
  7. Old Dominion University
  8. James Madison University
  9. Virginia State University
  10. Radford University
  1. Old Dominion University 96%
  2. Virginia State University 96%
  3. Radford University 95%
  4. Virginia Commonwealth University 93%
  5. George Mason University 91%
  6. Longwood University 90%
  7. Norfolk State University 89%
  8. Christopher Newport University 89%
  9. James Madison University 86%
  10. University of Virginia's College at Wise 83%
  1. Virginia Commonwealth University 18 to 1
  2. Old Dominion University 18 to 1
  3. George Mason University 17 to 1
  4. James Madison University 17 to 1
  5. Norfolk State University 16 to 1
  6. University of Virginia 15 to 1
  7. Longwood University 15 to 1
  8. Virginia Tech 14 to 1
  9. Radford University 14 to 1
  10. Christopher Newport University 14 to 1
  1. William & Mary $17,434
  2. University of Virginia $16,547
  3. Virginia Commonwealth University $12,094
  4. Virginia Tech $11,750
  5. Virginia Military Institute $9,782
  6. George Mason University $9,510
  7. Christopher Newport University $9,100
  8. University of Mary Washington $8,678
  9. Longwood University $8,180
  10. Radford University $7,922
  1. University of Virginia $17,674
  2. Virginia Tech $14,098
  3. George Mason University $13,035
  4. Virginia Commonwealth University $12,618
  5. James Madison University $11,184
  6. William & Mary $10,516
  7. Old Dominion University $10,207
  8. Radford University $8,915
  9. Norfolk State University $8,820
  10. University of Mary Washington $8,676
  1. University of Virginia's College at Wise
  2. Longwood University
  3. Norfolk State University
  4. University of Mary Washington
  5. Christopher Newport University
  6. Virginia State University
  7. Virginia Military Institute
  8. Radford University
  9. James Madison University
  10. Old Dominion University
  1. University of Virginia's College at Wise
  2. Longwood University
  3. Christopher Newport University
  4. Norfolk State University
  5. University of Mary Washington
  6. Radford University
  7. Virginia State University
  8. James Madison University
  9. Old Dominion University
  10. Virginia Military Institute
  1. University of Virginia 21%
  2. William & Mary 37%
  3. Virginia Tech 56%
  4. Virginia Military Institute 64%
  5. University of Mary Washington 82%
  6. University of Virginia's College at Wise 83%
  7. James Madison University 86%
  8. Christopher Newport University 89%
  9. Norfolk State University 89%
  10. Longwood University 90%
  1. Virginia Military Institute 11 to 1
  2. University of Virginia's College at Wise 11 to 1
  3. William & Mary 11 to 1
  4. Virginia State University 12 to 1
  5. University of Mary Washington 13 to 1
  6. Virginia Tech 14 to 1
  7. Radford University 14 to 1
  8. Christopher Newport University 14 to 1
  9. University of Virginia 15 to 1
  10. Longwood University 15 to 1
  1. Virginia State University $5,540
  2. Norfolk State University $5,752
  3. University of Virginia's College at Wise $5,864
  4. Old Dominion University $7,029
  5. James Madison University $7,460
  6. Radford University $7,922
  7. Longwood University $8,180
  8. University of Mary Washington $8,678
  9. Christopher Newport University $9,100
  10. George Mason University $9,510
  1. Longwood University $6,480
  2. Christopher Newport University $7,614
  3. Virginia State University $8,375
  4. University of Mary Washington $8,676
  5. Norfolk State University $8,820
  6. Radford University $8,915
  7. Old Dominion University $10,207
  8. William & Mary $10,516
  9. James Madison University $11,184
  10. Virginia Commonwealth University $12,618

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.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

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.

Virginia's Best Public Colleges Badge
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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 2023

  1. #1

    University of Virginia

    Charlottesville , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $20K

    Acceptance

    21%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1415/32

    Career Outlook for degree at University of Virginia

    Cost of Degree: $21,425
    Expenses: $17,790
    Starting Salary: $64,378
    Salary after 4 years: $81,886
    Cost Recoup Time: 10 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
  2. #4

    William & Mary

    Williamsburg , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $24K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1395/32

    Career Outlook for degree at William & Mary

    Cost of Degree: $23,970
    Expenses: $17,148
    Starting Salary: $49,401
    Salary after 4 years: $66,016
    Cost Recoup Time: 12 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
  3. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    93%

    Graduation

    68%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1155/24

    Career Outlook for degree at Virginia Commonwealth University

    Cost of Degree: $15,642
    Expenses: $19,239
    Starting Salary: $52,294
    Salary after 4 years: $66,171
    Cost Recoup Time: 11 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    Virginia Commonwealth University’s Online Degrees

    BSN in Nursing: RN to BSN
    • Required Credits: 32
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Clinical Laboratory Science
    • Required Credits: 40
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  4. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    96%

    Graduation

    49%

    Student body

    19K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1065/21

    Career Outlook for degree at Old Dominion University

    Cost of Degree: $11,220
    Expenses: $17,780
    Starting Salary: $49,001
    Salary after 4 years: $60,904
    Cost Recoup Time: 10 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    Old Dominion University’s Online Degrees

    BA in Fashion Merchandising
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Finance
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Marketing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Real Estate
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Risk Management And Insurance
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Accounting
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Business Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Marketing Education
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Computer Engineering
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Computer Science
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Information Systems And Technology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Computer Engineering Technology (Electrical Engineering Technology)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Embedded Systems Technology (Electrical Engineering Technology)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Technology Education
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Criminal Justice
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Cybersecurity
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Cybercrime
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Training Specialist (Occupational And Technical Studies)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Elementary Education
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Special Education
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Communication
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS or BA in Geography
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Political Science
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Sociology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Communication Systems Technology (Electrical Engineering Technology)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Leadership
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Professional Writing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Health Sciences-Health Services Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Dental Hygiene
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Medical Laboratory Science
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Public Health
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Psychology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Civil Engineering Technology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in General Engineering Technology- Electromechanical Systems (Ids)
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Industrial Technology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Mechatronics Systems Technology
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Met-Manufacturing Systems/Mechanical System Design
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Met-Nuclear Systems Concentration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  5. #7

    James Madison University

    Harrisonburg , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    86%

    Graduation

    82%

    Student body

    21K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1200/25

    Career Outlook for degree at James Madison University

    Cost of Degree: $13,092
    Expenses: $17,416
    Starting Salary: $48,822
    Salary after 4 years: $64,619
    Cost Recoup Time: 10 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    James Madison University’s Online Degrees

    BSN in Nursing: RN to BSN
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  6. #8

    Radford University

    Radford , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    95%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    8K

    Career Outlook for degree at Radford University

    Cost of Degree: $11,916
    Expenses: $15,147
    Starting Salary: $43,635
    Salary after 4 years: $53,893
    Cost Recoup Time: 10 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    Radford University’s Online Degrees

    BBA in Business
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Emergency Services
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Healthcare Administration
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Public Health
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  7. Tuition + fees

    $20K

    Acceptance

    64%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1165/25

    Career Outlook for degree at Virginia Military Institute

    Cost of Degree: $19,914
    Expenses: $13,824
    Starting Salary: $43,110
    Salary after 4 years: $65,981
    Cost Recoup Time: 10 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
  8. #10

    Virginia State University

    Petersburg , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    96%

    Graduation

    48%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    910/17

    Career Outlook for degree at Virginia State University

    Cost of Degree: $9,654
    Expenses: $14,519
    Starting Salary: $38,527
    Salary after 4 years: $45,681
    Cost Recoup Time: 11 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    Virginia State University’s Online Degrees

    BSN in Nursing: RN to BSN
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  9. #11

    Christopher Newport University

    Newport News , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    89%

    Graduation

    75%

    Student body

    5K

    Career Outlook for degree at Christopher Newport University

    Cost of Degree: $15,425
    Expenses: $17,374
    Starting Salary: $37,523
    Salary after 4 years: $55,490
    Cost Recoup Time: 11 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
    What is Christopher Newport University known for?

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #12

    University of Mary Washington

    Fredericksburg , VA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    82%

    Graduation

    68%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1180/26

    Career Outlook for degree at University of Mary Washington

    Cost of Degree: $14,294
    Expenses: $16,850
    Starting Salary: $42,462
    Salary after 4 years: $53,834
    Cost Recoup Time: 11 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
    What is University of Mary Washington known for?

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    University of Mary Washington’s Online Degrees

    BSN in Nursing: RN to BSN
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  11. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    89%

    Graduation

    37%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    930/17

    Career Outlook for degree at Norfolk State University

    Cost of Degree: $9,622
    Expenses: $17,088
    Starting Salary: $36,332
    Salary after 4 years: $44,655
    Cost Recoup Time: 12 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    Norfolk State University’s Online Degrees

    BS in Business
    Degree Concentrations
    • Entrepreneurship
    • Finance
    • Management
    • Management Information Systems
    • Marketing
    • Management Information Systems
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Tourism And Hospitality Management
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in History
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BA in Interdisciplinary Studies
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Interdisciplinary Studies
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BSN in Nursing: RN to BSN
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
    BS in Health Services Management
    • Required Credits: None Reported
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
  12. #14

    Longwood University

    Farmville , VA

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    90%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/20

    Career Outlook for degree at Longwood University

    Cost of Degree: $14,600
    Expenses: $18,156
    Starting Salary: $41,517
    Salary after 4 years: $47,422
    Cost Recoup Time: 13 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
    What is Longwood University known for?

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

  13. Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    39%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1075/20

    Career Outlook for degree at University of Virginia's College at Wise

    Cost of Degree: $11,498
    Expenses: $15,929
    Starting Salary: $33,330
    Salary after 4 years: $42,877
    Cost Recoup Time: 12 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary
    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:

    University of Virginia's College at Wise’s Online Degrees

    BSN in Nursing
    • Required Credits: 120
    • Completion Time: None Reported
    • Format: Online
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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 utilized 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

Check out our directory of public colleges throughout the U.S. for a look at the top public colleges in every state.

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