A month into the fall semester, our internal data, along with new national rankings, is providing new insights into Virginia Commonwealth University which bode well for both the students we serve and the entire RVA region. 

Attracting People and Talent
VCU is bringing people and their talents to RVA from around Virginia, the nation, and the world. This fall’s class of first-year students is one of the biggest in university history. Three out of four of those students come from outside RVA, including 38 other states and 30 foreign countries. The class’s distinctiveness extends well beyond geographic diversity:

  • 37% of the first year class are the first in their family to attend a university – a seven-year high;
  • 34% of the first year class qualifies for need-based federal financial aid – a 16-year high; and
  • Three out of five students identify as a member of a racial or ethnic minority group – also a 16-year high.

Combined with these ways in which VCU offers access is a graduation rate above the national average!  Two of the many reasons that VCU is seen increasingly as a first-choice university is the growing diversity and excellence of our faculty and staff and our laser-sharp focus on innovation, transformational learning and impact. 

Of Virginia’s five public R1 research universities (doctoral universities with very high research activity per the Carnegie classification), VCU boasts the most diverse faculty and staff, and the highest percentage of African American faculty members. In fact, VCU has experienced a net gain of 20% since 2018 in the number of underrepresented minority individuals, and those who are specifically African American, employed in teaching and research faculty positions.

Increasingly, students demand innovative learning opportunities that prepare them for meaningful careers in a world shaped by exponentially growing technologies, including Artificial Intelligence. VCU meets those evolving needs through transformative learning opportunities that include traditional internships, problem-based learning, study abroad programs, and discovery and knowledge-creating experiences that only one of the nation’s leading research universities can provide. Every VCU bachelor’s degree program will include these experiences by 2026.

Solving Real World Problems
Ranked a top 50 public research university by the National Science Foundation, VCU set a new record last year for sponsored research funding totalling $464 million. That includes growth in every single academic unit across our campuses and in total represents a 71% increase over the last five years.

That progress means finding solutions to some of society’s greatest challenges, saving lives, and driving economic development for RVA and the state, including:

Growing Reputation
Innovation lives everywhere at VCU and this is why we rank as one of the nation’s most innovative universities. In fact, we’ve improved that ranking each of the past two years, rising from the top 30 to number 19 of public universities in the U.S. News & World Report 2024 Best Colleges rankings.

We’ve also seen tremendous growth in our overall U.S. News rankings over last year, rising to number 76 among all public institutions. That’s to say nothing of VCU’s 29 graduate, online and undergraduate programs that rank among the nation’s top 50.

Elevating RVA
VCU’s success holds promise for RVA’s and Virginia’s future. Afterall, two-thirds of the university’s more than 216,000 alumni live in Virginia. At least four out of ten of those individuals live in the Richmond region. Today, VCU employs 44,000 people across the region and has a total economic impact here of $6.3 billion. Federal statistics show that VCU is one of Virginia’s leading universities in terms of social mobility with our graduates earning nearly 8% more than the national midpoint salary for college graduates. We’re proud of what that means for our students, alumni, and the Richmond region, whose ongoing collaboration is critical to our success – and inspired to see what we can accomplish together next.

Fotis Sotiropoulos, Ph.D., is VCU’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs and professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering . He can be reached at provost@vcu.edu.

Categories Op/Ed, Provost