Why Choose a Private College or University in Virginia?
Virginia is home to more than 100 private colleges and universities.
Some private schools — like those in the Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia — boast accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). They also can be found in metro and rural areas of Virginia.
More than 135,000 students choose to enroll in private colleges and universities in Virginia. Private colleges in Virginia can offer diverse liberal arts majors, small class sizes, personalized student support services, and a variety of activities, including athletics and student clubs.
When trying to decide between a private vs. public college, many students choose a bigger public college or university. But Virginia’s select private colleges attract many learners as well. Private schools include historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), gender-specific and coeducational institutions, and graduate and undergraduate programs.
Many private institutions in Virginia also participate in collaborative business programs, including corporate sponsors that can offer job opportunities to graduates.
Many students shy away from private colleges due to cost. However, others find Virginia’s private institutions affordable, utilizing available financial aid packages.
Pros and Cons of Attending a Private Institutions in Virginia
Personalized attention through small class sizes, personal mentorship, and direct communication with professors
Emphasis on career development and matriculation to a four-year degree program at a partnering public, state-sponsored school
Many achieve accreditation through SACSCOC, on par with SACSCOC-accredited public four-year colleges and universities in Virginia
May offer limited academic programs for non-liberal arts majors or those aspiring to non-trade and non-technical fields
Typically emphasize merit-based and institutional scholarships but offer limited federal financial aid options compared to public colleges
Sometimes lack the broad engagement opportunities and campus culture of a larger public college or university
Nonprofit vs. For-Profit Colleges and Universities in Virginia
Nonprofit and for-profit colleges and universities differ primarily in how they approach operating expenses. Nonprofit colleges and universities receive state and federal funding to maintain campus facilities, pay staff, and maximize financial aid packages.
For-profit institutions generally receive less federal funding and must earn income in other ways by, for example, charging higher tuition rates and fees. Other sources of income may include donations, endowments, and government grants.
Nonprofit colleges invest any profits they earn back into the school to improve student and educational services, for example. For-profit schools distribute profits among their investors and shareholders.
Most public state colleges and universities and community colleges are nonprofit. Nonprofit vs. for-profit status can also affect admissions, programs, and student debt.
Most private schools are for-profit, as are many private schools in Virginia. However, nonprofit private schools also exist.
How Much Does It Cost to Attend a Private College or University in Virginia?
In 2019-2020, undergraduates attending a private four-year college or university in Virginia paid more than $23,000, on average, in tuition and fees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Including room and board, the average total cost of attendance rose to nearly $35,000 during that academic year.
Washington and Lee University is among the most expensive private schools in the state, charging $58,260 in tuition during the 2021-2022 academic year. Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing ranks among Virginia’s most affordable private colleges, with annual tuition as low as $3,450 for select programs.
Students should seek out multiple scholarship and grant opportunities as they plan to attend a private college or university in Virginia.
Other cost-saving measures include living at home and/or enrolling in an online or hybrid program. Some private colleges and universities also offer budget-friendly options such as textbook loan programs and financing plans.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Private Colleges and Universities in Virginia
How many private institutions are there in Virginia?
While estimates vary slightly depending on the source, Virginia has at least 119 private colleges and universities, according to NCES. This figure includes both nonprofit and for-profit institutions and two- and four-year programs. It also includes private schools that offer programs that take less than two years to complete.
What is the most expensive private college or university in Virginia?
One of the state’s most expensive private schools is Washington and Lee University, where annual tuition is more than $58,000. Other schools include Marymount University ($35,950) and Mary Baldwin University ($30,690).
Attending a private college typically costs more than attending a public institution. However, private schools tend to offer more grant and scholarship aid packages as enrollment incentives.
Prospective students also should keep in mind that tuition can vary by resident status and program.
Bon Secours Memorial College of Nursing
- What is the least expensive private institution in Virginia?
is one of Virginia’s least expensive private colleges, with select programs costing $3,450 in tuition per year. Other options include the University of the Potomac’s Virginia campus
and Sovah College of Health Professions
In addition to seeking out financial aid options, students may decide to sign up for an online or hybrid program or live off campus to further cut expenses as they pursue their education.
Is a private institution right for me?
Choosing to attend a public or private college is a personal decision.
Private colleges in Virginia offer broad academic and technical programs to students across the state’s metro and rural areas.
Private schools can offer small class sizes, personalized attention from instructors, and targeted career development services. These may benefit some students but deter others seeking a more big-college experience.
Students should consider multiple factors — a private college’s cost, financial aid options, choice of programs, and student support services — when making their decision.
Can I get more scholarship money at a private institution?
Possibly. However, the margin is debatable since private schools may only award more scholarships than public schools to offset the higher cost of tuition.
In the U.S., the average cost of tuition and required fees at private colleges and universities was more than double the cost at public colleges in 2019-2020, according to NCES.
Grantford reported in 2021 that public colleges covered approximately 75% of the cost of in-state tuition. Private colleges covered approximately 61% of tuition costs through financial aid, primarily federal funding and scholarships, respectively.
Since cost is a critical consideration among college applicants, private institutions commonly attract students by advertising comprehensive financial aid packages.