20 Cheapest Colleges in Virginia in 2021 - Best Value Schools

20 Cheapest Colleges in Virginia in 2021

March 5, 2021 | Staff Writers

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BestValueSchools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Virginia is a state rich in history, culture, and learning opportunities.  As one of the original colonies, Virginia has long been home to institutions for higher learning and progressing those who reside there to a higher plane of thinking and living. As such Virginia is home to over 70 institutions for higher learning.  With so many choices it can be difficult to know which one is best to apply to and plan to attend.  With Virginia’s location nestled between the Atlantic ocean and the Appaliacians students have a rich variety of activities.  It is also conveniently located close enough to the nation’s capital that many institutions for higher learning provide very unique opportunities for internships and externships.  

In searching for the cheapest colleges in Virginia, we started with accredited institutions that award a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.  When deciding on a college it is important that you attend an institution that is accredited, preferable regionally accredited.  There are many reasons for this, one main reason is that any degree awarded or credits taken from an accredited institution will be recognized by other colleges upon transferring or applying for an advanced degree.  Accredited institutions are also more widely recognized by employers. A college has to meet requirements of quality instruction, faculty credentials, and current methodologies as part of their accreditation process.  

Next, we looked at three key pieces of information to determine the best affordable colleges in Virginia; the cost of tuition, faculty to student ratio, and graduation rate.  Virginia is known to have some of the oldest institutions for higher learning in the nation but not all of them are ideal for every student, especially if they are seeking to attend college on a budget.  Lucky for you, you don’t need to sacrifice quality for cost.  By looking at the faculty to student ratio and graduation rates we can identify which institutions will offer more personalized education and those with higher graduation rates show that students felt that the value of the college was worth completing their degree there.    

The list we compiled and ranked is based on a matrix of tuition, faculty to student ratio, and graduation rate.   Every institution that made the list is regionally accredited and awards a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.  

For more programs check out our Cheapest online colleges.

Here are the 20 Cheapest Colleges in Virginia!

1. Fairfax University of America         Points 13

Established in 1998, Fairfax University of America is a private institution that awards bachelor’s degrees.  Students can enroll in the bachelor of science in business, information systems, public and international affairs, language studies or general education.  In these programs they will be equipped with the skill to deal with world issues.  Fairfax University also provides world class faculty that are experts in their fields which provides a more real view of their education and career outcomes.  Students learn to become professionals and have a global perspective as they earn their bachelor’s degree.  Through research, workshops, presentation, and collaborative work students will rise up to become the professionals of tomorrow through the mentorship they receive at Fairfax University.  

At A Glance

  • Location: Fairfax, Virginia
  • Resident Tuition: $10,328
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $10,328
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 9 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Graduation Rate: 53%

2. Sweet Briar College         Points 11

Established in 1901, Sweet Briar College is a private women’s college that has been ranked as one of the nation’s most innovative schools by the U.S. News and World Report.  It is also home to one of the nation;s best equestrian programs among many other high ranking degree programs. Sweet Briar is home to one of only two ABET accredited engineering programs at women’s colleges in the United States.  80% of students participate in an internship during their time at Sweet Briar.  Students can earn degrees in ancient studies, archeology, environmental science, visual and performing arts, and more.  Pre-professional degree options are also available at Sweet Briar.  

At A Glance

  • Location: Sweet Briar, Virginia
  • Resident Tuition: $21,000
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $21,000
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 5 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Graduation Rate: 60%

3. Shenandoah University            Points 11

Established in 1875, Shenandoah University is a private institution that enrolls approximately 4,000 students each year.  Students of Shenandoah University not only gain the knowledge they need in a given field but also the skills and experience of working collaboratively with others to ensure success in their future careers.  There are six colleges at Shenandoah including the College of Arts and Sciences,  School of Business, School of Nursing, School of Pharmacy, Shenandoah Conservatory, School of Health Professions, School of Education and Leadership, and Division of Applied Technology.  Students have over 100 majors to choose from as they pursue their degree.  Over 97% of the students attending receive some for of financial aid making it a much more affordable option and the most affordable private institution in the state of VIrginia.   

At A Glance

  • Location: Winchester, Virginia
  • Resident Tuition: $32,530
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $32,530
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 10 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Graduation Rate: 57%

4. University of Mary Washington          Points 9

Established in 1908, the University of Mary Washington is a public institution that was founded to educate and prepare teachers.  Since opening The University of Mary Washington has grown to offer degree programs in the liberal arts and sciences.  It has consistently ranked among the best colleges in the nation offering rigorous academics and small class sizes, students thrive at UMW.  Students can choose from more than 60 majors including education, business, geospatial analysis, nursing, liberal arts studies and more.  Many students participate in the study abroad programs offered as well.  Approximately 4,400 students enroll each year in either the undergraduate or graduate programs.  

At A Glance

  • Location: Fredericksburg, Virginia
  • Resident Tuition: $12,714
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $28,650
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 14 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Graduation Rate: 72%

5. Longwood University          Points 9

Established in 1839 as a female seminary institution, Longwood University has since grown to offer more than 100 areas of study.  Longwood University is a public institution that enrolls approximately 5,800 students each year.  Every student will participate in an internship or externship, research, or field experience to guarantee each graduate has gained applied experience in their field. Areas of study include economics, arts history, biology, physics, pre-law, real estate,  marketing, english and  many more.  Students also have opportunities for service  and extracurricular activities to enrich their experience while at Longwood.   

At A Glance

  • Location: Farmville, Virginia
  • Resident Tuition: $13,340
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $29,300
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 14 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Graduation Rate: 65%

6. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University       Points 9

A public land-grant research institution, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University was established in 1872 as a senior military institution.  The large campus is home to 2,600 acres that includes acres of farmland, an airport, and over 200 buildings.  As the leading research university in the state, Virginia Tech awards both undergraduate and graduate degrees to students in a wide array of areas.  With over 100 majors students can study unique fields such as forestry, fish conservation, sustainable biomaterials, ocean engineering,  nanoscience, and many more.  Enrollment is approximately 35,000 each year, but students still have small classes and personalized education experiences that allow them to flourish after graduation.  

At A Glance

  • Location: Blacksburg, Virginia
  • Resident Tuition: $13,620
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $31,908
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 14 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Graduation Rate: 84%

7. Christopher Newport University            Points 9     

Established in 1960, Christopher Newport University is a public liberal arts institution that offers cheap undergraduate and graduate degrees.  Students have four broad areas of study to choose a degree from including the social sciences, natural and behavioral sciences, business, and the arts and humanities.  Students can choose to earn an affordable degree in government, political science, psychology, biology, and more.  The school aims to help every student gain real world experience in their field prior to graduation through a variety of opportunities including study abroad, internships, research, and service.   

At A Glance

  • Location: Newport News, Virginia
  • Resident Tuition: $14,754
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $27,620
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 15 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Graduation Rate: 74%

8. Virginia State University           Points 9

Established in 1882, Virginia State University is a public land grant university that was the nation’s first fully-state supported institution for higher learning for black Americans.  With more than 40 majors to choose from, students can earn degrees in the liberal arts, technology, science, business, engineering, agriculture, and more.   With innovative methods that help students integrate knowledge with applied skills through outreach, extension, and research opportunities, students gian more than a degree, they gain confidence.  Students receive student focused mentoring, technology resources and advising.  Student life is vibrant with student led clubs and organizations as well as performing arts, athletics, and more. 

At A Glance

  • Location: Petersburg, Virginia
  • Resident Tuition: $9,056
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $20,300
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 15 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Graduation Rate: 43%

9. Old Dominion University         Points 9

Established in 1930 as a division of the College of William and Mary, it is now the Old Dominion University and is one of the largest universities in Virginia enrolling over 24,000 students each year.  As a large university it is no surprise that it offers over 2,400 courses with 275 academic programs.  Students can pursue bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees from Old Dominion.  Students can pursue degrees in many fields but Old Dominion is recognized for the amount of graduates from STEM programs.  It is also one of the institutions that offers maritime engineering, port logistics, cybersecurity, and coastal resilience.  It is also a partner for NASA Langley Research Center as well as the Thomas Jefferson National Laboratory.  

At A Glance

  • Location: Norfolk, Virginia
  • Resident Tuition: $10,560
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $29,460
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 18 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Graduation Rate: 50%

10. Radford University           Points 9

Established in 1919, Radford University is an affordable public institution in Virginia and one of eight doctorate granting institutions in Virginia.  Students can choose from more than 100 degree programs.  Radford University comprises six colleges: Education and Human Development,  Science and Technology, Visual and Performing Arts, Humanities and Behavioral Sciences, Human and Health Services, and Business and Economics.  Students of Radford are known to be involved in the community through service and internships as well as promoting their communities upon graduation. Students have many opportunities to be engaged on campus through clubs and organizations as well as within the community.  

At A Glance

  • Location: Radford, Virginia
  • Resident Tuition: $11,210
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $23,292
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 16 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Graduation Rate: 58%

11. James Madison University           Points 9

Established in 1908 as a Normal School for Women, James Madison University has since grown to become a large degree granting university for men and women. Over 21,000 students enroll each year seeking undergraduate degrees in one of them any fields available from James MAdison University.  With more than 80 degree programs to choose form students will find a degree that interests them and utilizes their talents and ambitions.  Fields of study include integrated science, geographic science, architectural science, quantitative finance, engineering and more.  Student life is very engaging with over 400 student clubs and organizations.  Students are also encouraged to participate in faculty led research.  

At A Glance

  • Location: Harrisonburg, Virginia
  • Resident Tuition: $12,016
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $28,416
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 16 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Graduation Rate: 82%

12. George Mason University           Points 9

Established in 1956, George Mason University is a public research institution that has grown to become the largest institution for higher learning in Virginia.  George Mason University operates four campuses and enrolls over 37,000 students across these campuses.  Students can pursue over 140 affordable degree programs from ten colleges and schools.  GMU is home to the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation which is the only program like this in the nation.  Students can pursue a degree in fields such as psychology, accounting, liberal arts, information technology, biology, criminal science, and many more. 

At A Glance

  • Location: Fairfax, Virginia
  • Resident Tuition: $12,462
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $35,922
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 16 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Graduation Rate: 69%

13. University of Virginia Main Campus       Points 9

Established in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia-Main Campus is the flagship university of Virginia and is home to Jefferson’s Academical Village.  Students attending UVA not only receive a high quality education at an affordable cost but also get to attend a campus that is arguably one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation.  There are 11 schools that comprise the university that offer exceptional degree programs. Some of the more unique programs include environmental and urban planning, neuroscience, interdisciplinary studies, and aerospace engineering.  Students will find that they will have ample research opportunities and hands-on experience where hey learn to be tomorrow leaders.  

At A Glance

  • Location: Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Resident Tuition: $17,653
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $49,032
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 15 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Graduation Rate: 94%

14. Hampton University      Points 9

Established in 1868 to provide higher education to freedmen after the civil war, Hampton University is a private institution that now offers degree programs to over 4,300 students.  Those seeking affordable degrees can pursue a number of majors including office management, psychology, corporate communications, journalism, biology, and more.  Students enjoy a wide array of student activities with their 110 student organizations as well as on campus events such as live performances, movies, recitals, and concerts.    

At A Glance

  • Location: Hampton, VIrginia
  • Resident Tuition: $26,702
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $26,702
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 13 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Graduation Rate: 54%

15. Mary Baldwin University        Points 9

Established in 1842, Mary Baldwin University is a private coeducational liberal arts university.  It was founded as a women’s seminary but has since expanded to become an institution that offers 26 affordable degree programs. Average enrollment is 1,900 with students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs.  Students can earn degrees in education, social work, business administration, nursing and more.  Mary Baldwin is also known for its master’s program in Shakespeare & Performance. It also offers quality programs in chiropractic, pre-law, dentistry, and occupational therapy. Students enjoy quality performances, athletics, theater, and many other student produced activities.           

At A Glance

  • Location: Staunton, Virginia
  • Resident Tuition: $31,110
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $31,110
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 9 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Graduation Rate: 44%

16. Marymount University        Points 9

Established in 1950, Marymount University is a private Catholic institution for higher learning that is a few short miles from Washington D.C.  Four schools comprise Marymount University including Health Professions, Business and Technology, Arts and Humanities, and Design. Students can pursue degree programs in cybersecurity, health, business, communications, design, and STEM.  Students learn how to collaborate with others through interdisciplinary studies and opportunities for internships and experiential learning models.  Students can also participate in experiential studies.   

At A Glance

  • Location: Arlington, Virginia
  • Resident Tuition: $31,926
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $31,926
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 13 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Graduation Rate:52%

17. Norfolk State University             Points 9

Established in 1935, Norfolk State University is a public institution that is also a member school of the Thurgood Marshall College.  As one of the cheapest colleges in Virginia students can attend one it’s six colleges and schools:  Liberal Arts, Social Work, Education, Business, Science, Engineering, Technology, and Graduate Studies.  Students receive plenty of support in academic advising, counseling, tutoring and other support services on campus.  Through a partnership with Virginia High-Tech Partnership students that are traditionally underrepresented and underserved have access to participate in internships with local organizations and businesses.  Student life is vibrant with many opportunities in student clubs and organizations as well as intramural sports. 

At A Glance

  • Location: Norfolk, Virginia
  • Resident Tuition: $9,490
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $20,658
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 17 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Graduation Rate: 38%

18. The University of Virginia’s College at Wise           Points 7

Established in 1954, The University of Virginia’s College at Wise is a public institution that offers an affordable liberal arts education.  An already affordable institution becomes very cheap when students receive a competitive financial aid package.  Students will find up to date degree options that will propel them to success such as the only software engineering programs in the state of Virginia.  Students can earn a bachelor’s degree in education, social sciences, pre-professional studies and more.  According to UVA Wise 97% of graduates are employed or enrolled in a graduate program.    

At A Glance

  • Location: Wise, Virginia
  • Resident Tuition: $10,120
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $27,850
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 14 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Graduation Rate: 40%

19. Virginia University of Lynchburg          Points 7

Established in 1886 by the Virginia Baptist State Convention, Virginia University of Lynchburg is a private institution that awards degrees primarily in ministry and religious studies.  As a self-reliant institution students will find tuition to be very affordable, in fact it is one of the cheapest colleges in Virginia.  Students can earn a bachelor’s degree in business, sociology, religious studies, liberal arts, and more.  Students will find campus life engaging with intramural sports, clubs and organizations.   

At A Glance

  • Location: Lynchburg, Virginia
  • Resident Tuition: $9,000
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $9,000
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 10 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Graduation Rate: 13%

20. Regent University               Points 3

Established in 1977, Regent University is a private Christian university that provides quality degree programs on campus as well as online.  Regent is ranked among the top national universities by the U.S. News and World Report.  Most of the schools that comprise Regent University have been ranked among the top in the nation, such as the law school and the School of Communication and Arts.  Academic degrees that students can choose form are many including nursing. Counseling, healthcare, education, government, history, STEM programs and many more. Student enrollment averages 11,000 per year providing a vibrant student life with intramural sports, performances, and over 50 clubs and organizations.     

At A Glance

  • Location: VIrginia Beach, Virginia
  • Resident Tuition: $18,380
  • Non-Resident Tuition: $18,380
  • Faculty to Student Ratio: 42 to 1
  • Financial Aid: Yes
  • Graduation Rate: 28%

Methodology in Points Assigned


Cost $0 to $4,999  5 points

Cost $5K to $9,999 3 points

Cost $10K+ 1 point

Faculty to Student Ratio

10 to 1 and lower 5 points

20 to 1 3 points

Above 20 1 point

Graduation Rate

Above 50%  5 points

Between 25% to 40% 3 points

Below 25% 1 point

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