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Release: 2016-17 marks a record for bachelor’s degrees and STEM-H credentials in Virginia

by Greg Weatherford | Jan 05, 2018

Undergraduate enrollment at four-year public institutions remains strong

Contact: Greg Weatherford, (804) 786-2323 (o), (804) 317-3879 (m)

January 5, 2017

For immediate release

 —  More people earned bachelor’s degrees in Virginia in 2016-17 than ever before, including a record number of  degrees in STEM-H fields, according to recent research by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. 
SCHEV researchers analyzed degree completions and other awards in 2016-17, focusing particularly on in-state graduates at public and private nonprofit institutions. The record number of degrees in STEM-H fields — science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health — may indicate increasing interest in those careers. 
Some highlights of the SCHEV analysis: 
  • Virginia’s colleges and universities awarded 54,508 bachelor’s degrees in 2016-17 — the most in state history.
  • This includes 24,405 STEM-H degrees (35% of the total) awarded by Virginia public institutions, a state record. 
  •  This also includes 7,573 STEM-H degrees (24% of the total) awarded by Virginia private nonprofit institutions, another record.
  • 4,692 people completed workforce programs under the New Economy Workforce Credential Grant in its first year; 3,036 of them have earned formal workforce credentials granted by their industry. 
  • In all, Virginia institutions awarded 118,837 certificates and undergraduate and graduate degrees — just 0.9% lower than the state record of 119,934 set last year.
The figures demonstrate that the Commonwealth continues to make progress on the goals of The Virginia Plan for Higher Education, the state’s strategic plan, the researchers said. The plan calls for the percentage of Virginians with some form of workforce credential or degree after high school to increase from the current 51% to 70%. 
“Of all the jobs created since the Great Recession, 99% of them went to individuals with more than a high school diploma,” said SCHEV Director Peter Blake. “This can be in the form of worker training, credentials or degrees. The Commonwealth needs a well-educated workforce to succeed in the world economy. Virginians need to keep their skills sharp to succeed in work and life. For all these reasons, The Virginia Plan sets a goal for Virginia to become the best-educated state by 2030. These results show we are on the way.” 

Overall undergraduate enrollment at Virginia's public four-year institutions totaled 174,032 in fall 2017. This showed an increase over the prior year, as it has every year since 1993. Enrollment of new students increased a robust 5%.
Additional details from the analysis: 
  • The top three bachelor’s degree programs at Virginia public institutions remain unchanged from previous years: psychology, biology and business administration.
  •  Bachelor’s degrees in nursing have increased 19.6% at Virginia public institutions in the past five years, placing that degree in fourth place ahead of liberal arts and sciences, English and history.
  • Data-science degrees have increased 33% in the past five years across all Virginia institutions, from 4,961 to 6,582, in response to employment demand. 
For more information, see the analyses beginning on page 61 of the Council's January 9 meeting agenda book

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The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia is the state’s coordinating agency for higher education. With The Virginia Plan for Higher Education, SCHEV is dedicated to making Virginia the best-educated state by 2030. For more on The Virginia Plan:
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