by Veronica Garabelli
Photo courtesy Virginia Tech
Virginia is home to some of the nation’s most notable colleges and universities, which date back to our nation’s beginnings. The College of William & Mary, founded in 1693, is the second oldest higher education institution in the country. Washington and Lee University in Lexington and Hampden-Sydney College in Hampden-Sydney were formed in the 18th century. Thomas Jefferson’s brainchild, The University of Virginia, dates back to 1819.
In total, Virginia is home to a wide range of higher education institutions. Among four-year schools, 16 are public, and 34 are private. The state also is home to 23 community colleges and more than 30 proprietary institutions. In fall 2012, Virginia’s colleges and universities enrolled a total of 320,159 full-time students, according to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
The largest school in Virginia in terms of total enrollment is Liberty University with 74,372 students, more than half of whom are studying part time. The private, Lynchburg-based university is known for its growing online program.
Northern Virginia Community College is the biggest community college in the state and the second largest higher education institution in Virginia in total enrollment. The college, which has campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Woodbridge and Springfield, has more than 50,000 students, most of whom are part-timers. From fall to spring 2012, the school had a student retention rate of 69.5 percent for all students and 79.5 percent for first-time students.
George Mason University in Fairfax is the third biggest school in Virginia with a total enrollment of 32,961 students. Mason also is the public, 4-year school with the most part-time students, 12,657.
Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond was the fourth largest school in the state with 31,752 students. Last year, both GMU and VCU made U.S. News & World Report’s list of “Up-and-Coming Schools.”
The publication also listed U.Va. as the second best public school in the country (tied with the University of California-Los Angeles). The College of William & Mary made No. 6 on U.S. News’ top public schools list and Virginia Tech was 28.
The Institute for the Psychological Sciences in Arlington was the smallest college in Virginia with a total of 84 students.
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