Majority of Virginians see community colleges, public universities as worth the cost

vcuA majority of Virginians see two-year community colleges and four-year public universities as worth the cost, according to a new statewide poll by the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU.

The poll found 80 percent agreed strongly or somewhat that community colleges are worth the cost, while 66 percent said the same about public four-year schools. By contrast, only 49 percent of respondents agreed strongly or somewhat that private four-year schools are worth the cost, while 48 percent disagreed strongly or somewhat.

The poll, a random sample of 802 adults in Virginia conducted by landline and cell telephone from July 10-30, has a margin of error of 3.49 percentage points.

The same poll asked respondents to assess whether colleges overall and public high schools in the state are doing a good job on four workforce-related outcomes:


  • Producing graduates in scientific fields.
  • Preparing students for the workforce needs of the future.
  • Developing students’ writing and communication skills.
  • Providing the skills useful in obtaining a job.

Comparing whether the public sees colleges and public high schools as doing a good job in all four areas of workforce development, the results show that a higher proportion see colleges as doing a good job than say the same about public high schools. The gap between the two ranged from 12 to 21 percentage points. The greatest gap concerned the outcome of “providing the skills useful in obtaining a job” where 66 percent said colleges and universities do a good job but only 45 percent said the same about public high schools.

“We often hear that a college education is a key factor in individual success,” said Robyn McDougle, Ph.D., director of the Center for Public Policy at the Wilder School, “but the Virginia public appears to see colleges as a definite step up in preparing the commonwealth’s collective workforce as well.”

Both high schools and colleges received positive ratings from the largest portion of the population in the area of producing graduates in scientific fields. Seventy-five percent of Virginians said colleges were doing a good job in this area; 57 percent said the same about high schools.

In all other categories, roughly the same portion of respondents said high schools were doing a good job as said they were doing a bad job. There were strong regional differences. With the exception of the category of producing graduates in scientific fields, the residents of the south-central region show the most negative evaluation of high schools, while Northern Virginia and the west region consistently show the most positive.

For a PDF of the 33-page report including complete question wording and detailed tables of results, go to

On Thursday, Aug. 23, the Wilder School’s Center for Public Policy will release the final poll results measuring Virginians’ views on several policies related to mental health.

uva basketball team of destiny

Team of Destiny: Inside UVA Basketball's improbable run

Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.

The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.


Augusta Free Press content is available for free, as it has been since 2002, save for a disastrous one-month experiment at putting some content behind a pay wall back in 2009. (We won’t ever try that again. Almost killed us!) That said, it’s free to read, but it still costs us money to produce. The site is updated several times a day, every day, 365 days a year, 366 days on the leap year. (Stuff still happens on Christmas Day, is what we’re saying there.) AFP does well in drawing advertisers, but who couldn’t use an additional source of revenue? From time to time, readers ask us how they can support us, and we usually say, keep reading. Now we’re saying, you can drop us a few bucks, if you’re so inclined.


augusta free press
augusta free press
augusta free press news