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Economic Brief

Dec. 15, 2017

Richmond Fed Research Explores Barriers to Higher Education in Virginia

The latest Economic Brief from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond considers whether there are barriers to higher education in Virginia that could be addressed by public policy, collective university action, or further research.

The brief’s authors document wide differences across Virginia in college enrollment, particularly at high-resource colleges and universities, such as the University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary. School districts in low-income and relatively rural areas tend to place lower percentages of students at such institutions, but income and geography do not fully account for the observed differences, according to the authors. Other possible causes include gaps in academic preparation, difficulty in navigating the application process, and individual preference.

The Richmond Fed’s Economic Brief series provides web-exclusive essays on current economic issues and trends. Sign up to receive an email notification when a new essay is posted.


As part of our nation’s central bank, the Richmond Fed is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks working together with the Board of Governors to support a healthy economy and deliver on our mission to foster economic stability and strength. We connect with community and business leaders across the Fifth Federal Reserve District — including the Carolinas, District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and most of West Virginia — to monitor economic conditions, address issues facing our communities, and share this information with monetary and financial policymakers. We also work with banks to ensure they are operating safely and soundly, supply financial institutions with currency that’s fit for distribution, and provide a safe and efficient way to transfer funds through our nation’s payments system.

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