Consider a Private College

Consider a Private College

July 17-22 is a significant week for Virginia as it commemorates Private Colleges Week. The state boasts a robust higher education system, with private 4-year institutions playing a crucial role. While public colleges in Virginia are renowned nationwide, private colleges excel in meeting the educational and professional needs of many Virginians, particularly those underrepresented in public institutions.

Private colleges are often associated with higher price tags compared to their public counterparts. However, financial aid and grant programs help make private colleges more accessible to low-income and underrepresented students. Nearly 50% of students enrolled in Virginia private colleges benefit from Pell Grants — a federal program that provides money to students from low-income households, which does not require repayment. As a staunch supporter of the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (TAG) program, I am pleased to highlight that qualified undergraduate students will have access to $5,000 per year. These grants amount to approximately $100M annually or 3.4% of the overall state general fund spent on higher education. If the approximately 19,000 TAG recipients were enrolled in public institutions, the cost to the Commonwealth would be considerably higher.

Private colleges are also actively working to address racial inequities in the education system. An impressive 69% of the student populations enrolled in 4-year private colleges come from underrepresented backgrounds, encompassing non-white US citizens and permanent residents, Pell Grant recipients, students over the age of 25, and individuals from localities with low rates of educational attainment. Notably, out of the 23 private colleges participating in Virginia Private College Week, two are Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and one, Marymount University in Northern Virginia, is the first in Virginia to be recognized as a Hispanic Serving Institution with student body at least 25% Hispanic.

Being private institutions, these colleges possess the flexibility and resources to effectively tackle economic and racial disparities in education. A Bachelor’s degree holds tremendous value for students as it expands their knowledge and enhances their job prospects. According to reports by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals with a Bachelor’s degree earn significantly more per week than those with only a high school education. Private colleges play a pivotal role in assisting individuals from diverse backgrounds in reaping the benefits of higher education.

Beyond promoting equitable outcomes for historically marginalized and low-income individuals, Virginia’s private colleges contribute to society through their diverse degree programs. For example, private institutions account for about half of nursing degrees. They also offer various graduate programs, including a pharmacy school and osteopathic medical schools. These programs and their graduates are central to the health and economy of Virginia as a whole. As a Commonwealth, we greatly value the contributions that private colleges make to our society.

Private colleges are essential in meeting the educational and professional needs of Virginians, particularly those who are underrepresented in public institutions. I wholeheartedly encourage my constituents in high school, along with their families, as well as adults seeking to begin or continue their higher education, to actively participate in the upcoming Virginia Private Colleges Week. You will undoubtedly be pleasantly surprised by the diverse and high-quality educational opportunities available here in Virginia.