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Degrees Awarded 2017-18

by Tod Massa 26. October 2018 21:59


On Monday (Oct 29th), the Resources & Planning Committee of Council will receive my report on degrees awarded for last year. You can find the full report beginning on page 76 of the Agenda Book.  

Virginia’s public and private nonprofit colleges and universities awarded 54,947 bachelor’s degrees in 2017-18, the largest number ever. Virginia 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.

Virginia’s community colleges and Richard Bland College conferred 18,200 associate degrees in 2017-8. That compares to 18,419 last year and 18,956 in 2015-16. In total, Virginia’s public and private nonprofit colleges and universities awarded 119,980 undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates in 2017-18, the largest ever and an increase of 1,053 awards over the previous year.

The top three bachelor’s degree programs at public institutions – psychology, biology and business administration – remain unchanged from previous years. Over the last five years, the following programs have seen the greatest increase in graduates: liberal arts and sciences, computer and information services, mechanical engineering and nursing. The largest decreases are found in history, English language and literature, psychology and international relations.

Degrees in STEM-H fields (science, technology, engineering, math and health professions) continued to grow. Public institutions awarded 24,655 STEM-H degrees, or 34.8% of all degrees – the highest number and percentage ever. Private nonprofit colleges and universities also met new highs for STEM-H degrees – 7,880, or 24.9% of all degrees.

Data science degrees – a subset of STEM-H – have grown from 4,961 to 7,122 over the last five years, marking an increase in employment demand for graduates with these credentials.

The recently introduced New Economy Workforce Credential Grant program will add yet more credentials of value to the count. In the second year of its existence, 3,362 students enrolled in state-supported programs, with 3,156 students completing workforce programs and 2,419 of those students have earned the desired credential thus far. These noncredit credential programs are specifically targeted to existing workforce needs thus have specific value to the Commonwealth’s goals.

The Top Jobs Act (TJ21) calls for the awarding, by 2025, of an additional 100,000 degrees to in-state undergraduates at public institutions and a “comparable increase” in degree awards at private nonprofit institutions. These awards represent an important intermediate step of The Virginia Plan for Higher Education’s target of 1.5 million degrees and workforce credentials between 2014 and 2030.

The Commonwealth will need to begin increasing degree awards at public institutions to meet TJ21’s degree-award goals. If there is no further growth in awards at public institutions between now and 2025, the state will fall short of the goal by approximately 20,000 associate and bachelor’s degrees. Since 2010-11, 37,280 in-state undergraduate students have received a degree at public institutions. In the last two years, the number of degrees awarded has decreased by 1.1% and 0.7%, respectively. Degree awards will need to increase 1.2% annually to meet the 2025 goal. Originally, public institutions needed to maintain average increase of 960 degrees to in-state undergraduates to meet the target. Two years of modest declines have offset the early gains made. 

The decline in the number of associate and bachelor’s degrees over the last two years is a matter to monitor. This year’s degree report suggests that Virginia needs to continue its vigilance on both access and completion to meet The Virginia Plan goal of being the best-educated state in the nation by 2030. 



This last week I have been thinking about degrees, earnings, debt, and the complexity of choices that students face. We have a lot of offerings across the Commonwealth. The 1718 degrees awarded represent 3,574 program and degree combinations across our public and nonprofit institutions. At the undergraduate level, there are 2,393 combinations of credential, major, and institution. It is a lot from which to choose.


  Unique CIP Codes Individual Programs Institutions
Undergraduate Certificates/diplomas 136 597 31
Transfer-oriented Associates 33 97 28
Applied Science Associates 63 314 26
Bachelor's 326 1385 43
Graduate Certificates  168 247 33
Professional Degrees 9 26 17
Master's Degrees 271 645 34
Doctor's Degrees  154 263 20


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