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2017-18 marks a record for bachelor’s degrees and STEM-H credentials in Virginia

Nov 2, 2018, 10:23 AM
Contact:, (804) 786-2323 (o), (804) 387-5191 (m)

November 2, 2018

For immediate release

RICHMOND —  More people earned bachelor’s degrees in Virginia in 2017-18 than ever before, including a record number of degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Health (STEM-H) fields, according to recent research by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV). 

In 2017-18, Virginia public and private nonprofit institutions awarded 119,980 total undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees and undergraduate certificates — the largest ever and an increase of 1,053 awards over the previous year. This number includes:

  • 15,047 Certificates
  • 19,535 Associate Degrees
  • 54,947 Bachelor’s Degrees (the most in state history, and slightly higher than last year’s record number of 54,508)
  • 31,060 Graduate Degrees
Virginia's public four-year universities conferred 37,916 bachelor’s degrees, 103 fewer than the previous year. Private, nonprofit institutions conferred 17,031, 511 more than the previous year and the most ever.

Some highlights of the SCHEV analysis:

  • Of the 54,947 bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2017-18:
    • 24,655 STEM-H degrees (34.8% of the total) came from Virginia’s public institutions, the highest number and percentage ever.
    • 7,880 STEM-H degrees (24.9% of the total) came from Virginia’s private, nonprofit institutions, another record.
    • This record number of degrees in STEM-H fields indicates increasing interest in those careers.
  • In its second year, the New Economy Workforce Credential Grant helped 3,156 Virginians complete workforce programs; 2,419 of them earned formal workforce credentials granted by their industry. In the program’s first two years, Virginians earned 5,455 total workforce credentials.
  • Offsetting the growth in community college workforce credentials was a decline in degree awards. Community colleges conferred 18,200 degrees in 2017-18, down from 18,419 the year before.
“The vast majority of jobs in the 21st century economy require more than a high school diploma,” said SCHEV Director Peter Blake. “The skills needed for these jobs can be gained through worker training, credentials or degrees. 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.”

Additional details from the analysis:

  • The top three bachelor's degree programs at Virginia public institutions remain unchanged from previous years: business administration, psychology and biology.
  • The top three  bachelor's degrees at Virginia private institutions are business administration, psychology and multi/interdisciplinary studies.
  • Data-science degrees, a subset of STEM-H, grew from 4,921 to 7,122 over the last five years, in response to employment demand.

Top Jobs 21

In addition to the Virginia Plan’s goal for Virginia to be the best-educated state by 2030, the General Assembly’s Top Jobs 21 legislation set a goal to award 100,000 additional in-state undergraduate degrees by 2025. However, two years of declining degree awards at Virginia’s public institutions and community colleges now leave the Commonwealth short of the goal by approximately 20,000 degrees if no further increases occur. Additional declines would worsen this shortfall.

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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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