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Press Releases

NEWS RELEASE: SCHEV Releases Results of Statewide Undergraduate Survey, the First of Its Kind in the Nation

by Elizabeth Liverman | Nov 30, 2021
Laura Osberger
(804) 387-5191

November 30, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                         

RICHMOND — The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) today released the results of Virginia Educated, a comprehensive survey of graduates from Virginia public universities from 2007-2018 conducted on behalf of SCHEV by the Survey and Evaluation Research Laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), with assistance from a survey advisory committee, SCHEV staff, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, VCU colleagues and subject matter experts. An executive summary is available. SCHEV also created an informational webinar that explains the results.

The study is based on 15,348 survey responses from graduates of state-supported institutions of higher education in Virginia. The respondents represent 499,665 graduates who earned an undergraduate credential (associate or bachelor’s degree) between 2007 and 2018. Additional administrative and secondary data were matched to the survey data for the two-thirds of the respondents who consented to the linkage. Outreach for the survey was conducted by postal mail and email between December 2020 and May 2021, with most graduates having the option to complete the survey by web or on paper.

“The data generated by the Virginia Educated survey is unique in terms of its scope and the depth of its questions on the full range of issues that concern graduates of our universities and colleges,” said Dr. Stephen Moret, president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. “To my knowledge, no other state has done anything as comprehensive. Virginia is now uniquely positioned to understand the circumstances of our higher ed graduates and important predictors of their challenges and successes. VEDP looks forward to leveraging the results of Virginia Educated in our work with employers and institutions of higher education to ensure the continuing — and improving — excellence of Virginia's talent pipeline.”

The Virginia Educated survey report contains a wealth of previously unavailable information on the experiences of Virginia public college and university graduates. Said Virginia State University President Makola Abdullah, “The survey documents clearly that our graduates think highly of the education they received and the difference that education has made in their lives. It also provides valuable information on areas where we can do better—Virginia’s public higher education institutions look forward to using the insights of Virginia Educated to work on improving educational opportunities for all our students.”

Key Findings:

  1. Satisfaction: Overall, survey respondents were highly positive about their undergraduate experiences. Majorities expressed satisfaction with several specific aspects of their undergraduate education and cited its beneficial effects in various life domains. Negative feedback concentrated on the cost of higher education and the burden of student debt.
  2. Reason for Attending College: Overall, 64.3% of graduates said the primary reason they started their undergraduate education was job- or career-related (e.g., “get a good job,” “get a promotion or advance your career,” “attend an apprenticeship program”) and 35.7% gave other reasons (e.g., “your family, teachers, or friends expected you to,” “have a well- rounded education,” “figure out what you wanted to do”). The career-related reasons selected by two-year graduates were more likely to apply to an existing job (e.g., “get a promotion or advance your career,” “change careers”); those selected by four-year graduates were more likely to pertain to a prospective job (e.g., “get a good job,” “get the job or career you wanted”).
  3. Student Debt: The most frequently mentioned negative aspect of the undergraduate experience was its cost and associated debt. Among two-year graduates, 39.9% personally owed student loan debt or other money used to pay for their education when they graduated, as did 56.0% of four-year graduates.
  4. Employment: Overall, 87.3% of the respondents were currently working – 83.3% of two-year graduates and 89.4% of four-year graduates. Because many who were not working were not in the labor force due to disability, retirement, being full-time students or attending to family duties, a calculated unemployment rate among graduates would be low.
  5. Underemployment: The survey had multiple ways to measure underemployment, and they yielded estimates of underemployment for the graduates in total ranging from 12.5% to 42.4%. Many potentially underemployed graduates did not perceive themselves to be underemployed because they found their jobs to be fulfilling and/or they preferred their current work/life balance.
  6. Mobility: Most respondents were in-state students, and most of them lived in Virginia at the time of the survey. More than one-third of out-of-state students (35.0%) came to Virginia from five adjacent states and the District of Columbia. An additional 39.1% came from five other East Coast states. More than three-quarters of former out-of-state students do not currently live in Virginia.
  7. Impacts & Community Engagement: The strongest positive impacts were on personal and professional relationships, becoming more well-rounded, becoming more aware of other cultures, and on careers. The least positive impacts were on understanding how our system of government works, and on the graduate’s financial situation. Four-year graduates generally exceeded two-year graduates in various types of civic engagement, but both groups showed high levels of community involvement.

In addition, the study included more than 40,000 written answers to five main open-ended questions. The full report contains more detail and can be accessed at Virginia Educated - Graduate Outcomes Survey Full Report.

Added SCHEV Director, Peter Blake, “Like other groundbreaking reports, Virginia Educated raises important questions for further analysis. Working with the institutions and other partners, we will continue to pursue answers to questions that will make Virginia higher education even better than it is today.”


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The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia is the state’s coordinating agency for higher education. With Pathways to Opportunity: The Virginia Plan for Higher Education, SCHEV is dedicated to making Virginia the best state for education by 2030. For more on this statewide strategic plan, visit

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