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Trade Schools in Virginia with Program Overviews

There are over 30 mainstream colleges and schools in the state of Virginia that offer trade or vocational programs. Read about the schools with the most program variety, highest graduation rates, lowest student-faculty ratios and lowest costs to find the school for you.

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Most Program Variety

Virginia has a number of community colleges and technical centers that offer trade or vocational programs, as well as academic degrees in general or liberal studies. Read on to see which three mainstream schools offer the most in terms of program variety.

1 - Northern Virginia Community College

Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale offers nearly 90 certificate and degree programs through ten campuses and learning centers, including a distance learning institute. With an undergraduate enrollment of almost 52,000 students, the college is the largest educational institute in Virginia, as well as the second largest in the United States. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the school awarded 2,524 undergraduate certificates and 5,452 associate degrees during the 2011-2012 school year. Some of the most popular trade and occupational programs for certificate- and degree-seekers were in the engineering technology, health services, law enforcement and repair technology fields.

2 - Tidewater Community College

Located in Norfolk, Tidewater Community College offers almost 75 academic programs through four campuses and seven learning centers. In addition to its status as the 11th largest community college in the country, the school ranked 19th in the nation among schools awarding the most associate degrees. For the 2011-2012 academic year, Tidewater conferred 992 certificates and 2,923 associate degrees, as reported by NCES. While students pursuing certificates showed a preference for health administration and the liberal arts, the social sciences proved to be the most popular field of study for those enrolled in associate programs. During the same period, engineering and mechanical technologies were the most popular courses of study for students seeking short-term certificates (less than one year).

3 - Virginia Western Community College

Virginia Western Community College, located on a 70-acre campus in Roanoke, offers almost 60 different academic programs. According to NCES, the college awarded 473 certificates and 670 associate degree during the 2011-2012 school year. While electrical engineering technology was the most popular program for students in the short-term (less than one year) certificate programs, 128 students earned an associate degree in general studies.

Lowest Net Price

The National Center for Education Statistics determines the average net cost of a college by subtracting the amount of government and institutional financial aid a student receives from the total cost of attending the college. At less than $5,000, the three schools listed below had the lowest net prices for the 2011-2012 school year among mainstream schools in Virginia offering trade programs. All of the statistics are from the NCES.

1 - Wytheville Community College

This Wytheville community college had a low net price of $1,978, making it the state's most affordable not-for-profit college among qualified schools. According to NCES, tuition and fees for the 2012-2013 academic year were $3,810 for in-state students and $9,573 for out-of-state students. Among first-time, full-time students who enrolled during the 2011-2012 school year, 92% received grants or scholarship aid packages (which averaged $4,655), and 5% obtained federal student loans (which averaged $2,394). Students can also obtain financial help through the Wytheville Community College Educational Foundation, which manages more than 100 scholarship endowments and funds, as well as the school's Scholarship Foundation, Inc., which provides funding for eligible students.

2 - Washington County Skill Center

Washington County Skill Center in Abingdon is a public school that had a 2011-2012 net price of $4,274 for its largest program (the 900-hour welding technology program), which places it second on this list. Its trade programs include those in diesel mechanics, health and welding. Tuition and fees for the welding technology, dental assisting, business, diesel mechanics and allied health programs were all $4,575 as of the 2012-2013 school year. One hundred percent of students at Washington County Skill Center received grants or scholarship aid in 2011, with an average amount of $3,244, according to NCES.

3 - Central Virginia Community College

Central Virginia Community College in Lynchburg is a 2-year college with about 5,400 students and a 2011-2012 net price of $4,470. As of the 2012-2013 school year, in-state students paid $3,885 in tuition and fees, while out-of-state students paid $9,648. Sixty-seven percent of new, full-time students received grants or scholarship packages during the 2011-2012 academic year, averaging $4,087, and 11% received federal student loans in the average amount of $3,404.

Highest Graduation Rate

NCES determines a school's overall graduation rate as the number of first-time, full-time students who complete their programs within 150% of the 'normal time' (e.g., three years for an associate's program). At 60% or higher, the following three schools have the highest overall graduation rates for students who enrolled in Fall 2009 among traditional colleges in Virginia offering trade programs. Unless otherwise noted, all statistics have been provided by NCES.

1 - CET - Alexandria

The Center for Employment Training (CET) in Alexandria had an overall graduation rate of 84%, with 32% of students completing their programs in 'normal time.' Retention rates for students who enrolled in Fall 2011 and returned in Fall 2012 were 86% for full-time students and 44% for part-time students. The center, which enrolls just less than 200 students, offers certificate programs in mechanic and repair technologies, business, construction and health services.

2 - Suwannee - Hamilton Technical Center

Suwannee - Hamilton Technical Center in Winchester is a public school that offers career training programs in cosmetology, culinary arts and childcare, among other areas. The center had an overall graduation rate of 74%. According to NCES, Suwannee-Hamilton had a 2011-2012 retention rate of 74% for full-time students and 90% for part-time students.

3 - Washington County Skill Center

With an overall graduation rate of 60%, Washington County Skill Center ranks third in terms of high graduation rates. In addition, 50% of students graduated in normal time, and 94% of full-time students who started in Fall 2011 returned the following year.

Lowest Student-Faculty Ratio

Schools with small classes and low student-faculty ratios may provide students with more individualized attention. At 14:1 or less, the three schools below offer the lowest student-faculty ratios among traditional schools offering trade programs in Virginia.

1 - Suwannee - Hamilton Technical Center

Suwannee - Hamilton Technical Center enrolled 126 students in 2012 and had a low student-faculty ratio of 6:1. According to NCES, the school had 14 full-time instructors in Fall 2012.

2 - Columbia College

Located in Fairfax, Columbia College is a 2-year, private for-profit school that had 299 students and a student-faculty ratio of 9:1 in 2012. As of Fall 2012, Columbia College employed three full-time and 45 part-time faculty members, as reported by NCES.

2 - Washington County Skill Center

Tied for second place is Washington County Skill Center with 73 students and a 9:1 student-faculty ratio. According to information provided by NCES, the college had 6 full-time and 1 part-time instructional faculty members in Fall 2012.

Virginia Trade Schools at a Glance

School Name Location School Type Programs Offered Area Ranking
Central Virginia Community College Lynchburg, VA 2-year, public Less than 1-year and 1-but-less-than-2-year certificates; associate degrees Lowest Net Price
CET - Alexandria Alexandria, VA <2-year, private not-for-profit Less than 1-year and 1-but-less-than-2-year certificates Highest Graduation Rate
Columbia College Fairfax, VA 2-year, for-profit Less than 1-year and 1-but-less-than-2-year certificates; associate degrees 2nd Lowest Student-Faculty Ratio
Northern Virginia Community College Annandale, VA 2-year, public Less than 1-year and 1-but-less-than-2-year certificates; associate degrees Most Program Variety
Suwannee - Hamilton Technical Center Winchester, VA <2-year, public Less than 1-year, 1-but-less-than-2-year certificates Lowest Student-Faculty Ratio,
2nd Highest Graduation Rate
Tidewater Community College Norfolk, VA 2-year, public Less than 1-year and 1-but-less-than-2-year certificates; associate degrees 2nd Most Program Variety
Virginia Western Community College Roanoke, VA 2-year, public Less than 1-year and 1-but-less-than-2-year certificates; associate degrees 3rd Most Program Variety
Washington County Skill Center Abingdon, VA <2-year, public 1-but-less-than-2-year certificates 2nd Lowest Net Price,
2nd Lowest Student-Faculty Ratio,
3rd Highest Graduation Rate
Wytheville Community College Wytheville, VA 2-year, public Less than 1-year and 1-but-less-than-2-year certificates; associate degrees Lowest Net Price
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