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How Does Virginia's Higher Education Work?

Virginia Higher Education Snapshot (accessible version)

The Virginia Plan for Higher Education

The Virginia Plan for Higher Education, the statewide strategic plan, calls for the Commonwealth to be the (be the best-educated state by 2030). To do so, the percentage of working-age adults with a postsecondary credential needs to increase from 52% to 70% by 2030. To learn more, please visit

Institutions and Students

15 Public Four-Year Institutions
24 Public Two-Year Institutions
5 Regional Higher Ed Centers
1 Public/Private Medical School
30 Private, Nonprofit Colleges & Universities
300+ For-Profit, Out-of-State or Vocational Institutions

Fall Headcount Total: 524,932
Private, non-profit institutions: 28%
4-year public institutions: 43%
2-year public institutions: 29%

Student Outcomes

Awards Earned (degrees and certificates): 122,869

Median Wage 5 Years After Graduation

  • Associate Degree (transfer): $40,195
  • Associate Degree: $47,056
  • Bachelor's Degree: $51,897

Need and Value

Of the 11.5 million new jobs created since the great recession, 99% require workers with more than a high school education.

Lifetime Earnings:

  • Bachelor's Degree: $2.3 million
  • Associate Degree: $1.72 million
  • High School Diploma: $1.3 million

Cost of Higher Education

Undergraduate Average Total Charges
(Tuition, all mandatory/fees and room and board where applicable)

  • 4 Year Public Institutions: $25,587
  • 2 Year Public Institutions: $4,620

Virginia Student Debt

Bachelor's Degree: 38% graduate with $0 debt.

  • 75th percentile: $37,000
  • Median: $26,716
  • 25th percentile: $17,500

Associate Degree (transfer): 62% graduate with $0 debt.

  • 75th percentile: $20,989
  • Median: $11,745
  • 25th percentile: $5,500

Higher Education System Governance

The coordination and governance of higher education are shared responsibilities among the General Assembly, the governor, institutions and SCHEV. Governor

  • Appoints members to institutions' boards of visitors and SCHEV
  • Issues executive orders
  • Prepares and submits a biennial budget

General Assembly

  • Confirms Governor’s nominations for boards of visitors and SCHEV
  • Adopts a biennial budget
  • Enacts legislation pertaining to higher education

State Committees

  • Higher Education Advisory Committee develops and reviews strategies to implement state goals
  • Six-Person Operating Advisory Committee (OpSix) reviews and provides feedback on institutions’ six-year operating plans
  • Six-Year Capital Outlay Plan Advisory Committee (6PAC) reviews institutions’ six-year capital plans and makes recommendations to the General Assembly


  • Develops statewide strategic plan
  • Provides policy and funding recommendations
  • Approves changes to institutional missions and new academic programs
  • Administers state student aid programs

Institutions' Boards of Visitors

  • Set institutional policy goals and priorities
  • Select and dismiss institution’s president
  • Set tuition and fees
  • Approve budget requests to the Governor and General Assembly
  • Ensure institution effectively and efficiently uses state funds

Tuition and fee charges are a shared responsibility between institutions and students.

In 2021-22, Virginia undergraduate students will pay 50% of the cost of education, which is reflected as tuition and mandatory E&G fees. The state’s share is 50%, which is 17 percentage points below the 67% outlined in the state’s cost-share policy.

SCHEV’s Roles and Responsibilities

As the coordinating body for higher education in Virginia, SCHEV staff work closely with the 13-member Council to advocate for and promote the development and operation of an educationally and economically sound, vigorous, progressive, and coordinated system of higher education in the Commonwealth. SCHEV’s responsibilities cover the higher education areas of academic, budget and finance and research, including:
  • Planning: Statewide Strategic Plan Development
  • Academics: Policy and New Program Approval Authority
  • Certifications: New Out-of-State and Private Institutions
  • Data: Collection and Analysis
  • Finance: Policy Analysis and Budget Recommendations
  • Financial Aid: Program Oversight
  • Performance Reviews: Institutional Reviews
  • Advisory Services: Nonprofit Private Higher Education Advising
  • Board of Visitors: Orientation Training

For more detailed descriptions of SCHEV’s responsibilities, please visit

SCHEV staff is available to assist with any questions or suggestions related to higher education. Please contact us:
Peter Blake

Beverly Rebar
Senior Associate for Academic
and Legislative Affairs

SCHEV values honesty, quality, diversity, inclusion, growth-orientation, personal well-being, equity, transparency and accountability.
Through these values, we create a welcoming work environment that represents the best of who we are as an agency and as individuals.

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