Richmond isn’t a college town by any stretch of the imagination. During the breaks when all of the students go home, the campus gets quiet (mostly) — but the city is still buzzing with activity. In fact, a lot of the students live here full-time, even when class is out.

If you haven’t heard yet, VCU & UR’s basketball teams have both made it into the Sweet 16 and Richmond is getting a lot of national attention for this feat. (check out this article in the NY Times and this article on

All of this attention and excitement is wonderful, and has been a long time coming with the athletic programs at both schools gaining more and more traction. BUT the schools’ contributions to our fair city are quite a bit more involved than just succeeding at athletic competitions. Both schools have made quite a large economic and cultural impact over the years, and they continue to do so.

Mark Holmberg from CBS6 did a very interesting piece on how much Virginia Commonwealth University has done to improve the city and gives us a snapshot of VCU’s footprint here in Richmond:

VCU and its hospital and health system now have nearly 19 thousand employees.  It has become the largest employer in the metro Richmond with an annual payroll of $1.2 billion, and look at all the construction jobs and other support businesses for the 32,ooo students and all those employees- which equal a fourth of Richmond’s population.

VCU now owns 142 acres of Richmond, and has 203 buildings.

As for University of Richmond, it doesn’t have the massive scale that VCU does, but it has a great deal of influence and presence in the city as well. From the facts and figures portion of UR’s website:

  • 350-acre suburban campus located six miles from downtown Richmond
  • 379 full-time faculty [couldn’t locate a total for the entire staff]
  • 4,405 total university enrollment

And let’s not forget some of the other fine schools here in town that are also educating and providing economic development (and jobs!) — Virginia Union University, Randolph Macon College, and two Virginia Community Colleges (J. Sargeant Reynolds &  John Tyler) serving this area.

3 Thoughts on “How much of an impact do VCU & UR have on Richmond?”

  • Great post! These institutions are also amazing talent and idea factories! In addition to the investments in building, plant and equipment AND the employment ops they provide, they are creating Richmond’s future leaders and supporting area businesses (even creating some new technology and spinning out a few new businesses of their own on the way).

  • Thank, Sara. It would be difficult to sum up all of the positive influences that all of the schools have on our community because there are so many (financially and culturally). Even just the direct employment and dollars spent are impressive.

  • VCU has most likely has had the largest impact upon Richmond. Both positive and sometimes negative. The school started a massive land acquiring campaign in the early 90’s that sparked a lot of negative attention. Battles with the Oregon Hill owners, Grace Street and Broad street acquisitions and the loss of one of Richmond’s Shelter’s at times strained the relationship the school had with in the Fan and Richmond.

    What can be said for many years is that VCU has fostered such loyalty in it graduates that many stayed in the area, buying houses, starting businesses and leading to the cultural boom we are starting to see. Very few colleges can say the same.

    VCU has never been sports college per say. The basketball team has always done well, but until the mid 90’s rarely seen national attention the likes of other Virginia schools. While VCU fans are just as dedicated as any college fans are, it is finally nice to see the school getting national attention.

    Maybe we will start seeing bids for major sports events like the next NCAA Tournament? We once where a candidate for X-Games, maybe we can re-visit that possibility? If we continue to talk and grow, maybe just maybe we can finally have a athletic team that is on the professional level. Just as Virginia Tech’s rise in glory in the last 15 years led to a boon for athletics in Virginia I think this will continue to cement that Richmond also is a place that sports, and in cause the economy blooms.

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