Best Florida Colleges & Universities

Become Team
Become Team
November 18, 2020

Florida boasts more than 40 institutions of higher learning, many of which offer dozens of degree programs in various fields. The 12 state universities alone serve more than 300,000 students, while the 28 member schools of the Florida College System are the primary access point to higher education for high school graduates in the state. With so many opportunities available for aspiring students, it may seem a daunting task to research them all. This page serves as a starting point for college-bound students and their families, providing clear, unbiased information on Florida colleges. Read on to explore the state's best schools, a comprehensive review of costs, and additional college planning resources.

Ranking Florida Colleges: Top Programs

One must consider many factors when choosing among Florida colleges and universities, and those important to some people will not be as important to others. We've ranked colleges and universities using unbiased, empirical evidence regarding important qualities, including salary figures for graduates, tuition costs, student-to-teacher ratio, financial aid availability and graduation rates. Prospective students can use this ranking as a starting point to begin narrowing down their options.

Rankings Methodology Minimum Qualifications
  • Located in Florida
  • Public or private not-for-profit
  • Institutionally accredited
  • At least 10 total programs
Ranking Metrics
  • Median annual alumni earnings 10 years after entering the college
  • In-state tuition and fees for undergraduates
  • Student/teacher ratio
  • 6-year graduation rate
  • % of students receiving institutional financial aid (first-time, full-time undergrads)
  • Average amount of institutional aid awarded per student (first-time, full-time undergrads)
  • Availability of placement services upon completion
  • Availability of academic/career counseling services
  • Availability of employment services
  • 3-year student cohort loan default rate
Data Sources

Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS): National Center for Education Statistics

Latest 'Final Release' data available as of Fall 2016 College Scorecard: U.S. Department of Education

Best 2 Year Colleges

Hillsborough Community College View School Profile $ 24% 99.84 $32,500 23:1 9% N/A 0 100 Yes Yes
Tallahassee Community College View School Profile $ 33% 99.27 $30,900 24:1 13% N/A 4 63 Yes Yes
North Florida Community College View School Profile $ 43% 99.11 $27,300 16:1 41% N/A 0 24 Yes No
Florida Keys Community College View School Profile $ 34% 98.77 $27,100 12:1 22% N/A 1 20 No Yes
Traviss Career Center View School Profile $ 80% 98.2 $27,300 8:1 6% N/A 0 30 Yes No
Erwin Technical Center View School Profile $ 62% 98.11 $26,000 9:1 19% N/A 0 29 No No
Charlotte Technical Center View School Profile $ 66% 97.98 $20,000 8:1 16% N/A 0 15 Yes No
City College-Altamonte Springs View School Profile $$ 35% 97.45 $22,900 15:1 16% N/A 0 8 Yes Yes
Ridge Career Center View School Profile $ 88% 86 $19,500 24:1 11% N/A 0 26 Yes No

Best 4 Year Colleges

Florida Institute of Technology View School Profile $$$$ 55% 99.76 $53,100 9:1 93% 62% 12 94 Yes No
University of Miami View School Profile $$$$ 81% 98.87 $52,400 12:1 73% 38% 3 182 Yes No
Jacksonville University View School Profile $$$$ 41% 98.67 $47,700 11:1 98% 56% 3 106 Yes Yes
University of Florida View School Profile $ 85% 98.49 $51,300 21:1 29% 46% 44 218 Yes No
Stetson University View School Profile $$$$ 64% 97.43 $42,600 12:1 100% 61% 2 64 Yes No
Barry University View School Profile $$$$ 41% 97.34 $45,300 12:1 96% 46% 6 95 Yes Yes
Rollins College View School Profile $$$$ 72% 96.97 $42,200 10:1 82% 57% 0 41 Yes No
Palm Beach Atlantic University View School Profile $$$$ 51% 96.55 $38,100 13:1 100% 95% 5 60 Yes Yes
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Daytona Beach View School Profile $$$$ 58% 96.52 $60,900 14:1 92% 73% 0 35 Yes No
Nova Southeastern University View School Profile $$$$ 42% 96.09 $46,500 16:1 94% 49% 89 137 No Yes
Eckerd College View School Profile $$$$ 60% 95.87 $40,800 12:1 96% 73% 0 58 Yes Yes
Saint Leo University View School Profile $$ 43% 95.84 $42,600 15:1 99% 72% 37 58 Yes Yes
The University of Tampa View School Profile $$$ 57% 95.69 $44,400 17:1 90% 52% 0 60 Yes Yes
Florida State University View School Profile $ 75% 95.45 $44,000 26:1 42% 55% 8 209 Yes No
Florida International University View School Profile $ 49% 94.99 $45,100 26:1 48% 53% 21 149 Yes No
University of Central Florida View School Profile $ 65% 94.91 $43,000 31:1 44% 50% 30 156 Yes Yes
University of North Florida View School Profile $ 48% 94.89 $41,600 20:1 54% 61% 4 78 Yes No
University of South Florida-Main Campus View School Profile $ 57% 94.83 $41,700 25:1 73% 53% 12 175 Yes No
Florida Southern College View School Profile $$$$ 55% 94.64 $37,600 14:1 97% 45% 0 57 Yes No
St Thomas University View School Profile $$$$ 32% 94.41 $42,600 12:1 93% 85% 2 51 Yes Yes
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University View School Profile $ 40% 94.28 $37,300 15:1 57% 49% 3 89 Yes Yes
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide View School Profile $$ 48% 94.16 $60,900 12:1 14% 69% 21 21 Yes Yes
Ave Maria University View School Profile $$ 64% 93.09 N/A 15:1 100% 52% 1 24 Yes No
Florida Atlantic University View School Profile $ 41% 92.93 $41,400 24:1 43% 66% 7 126 Yes No
Warner University View School Profile $$ 40% 92.5 $42,200 17:1 89% 26% 5 26 Yes Yes
Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale View School Profile $$ 60% 92.19 $29,600 12:1 77% 49% 16 23 Yes Yes
The University of West Florida View School Profile $ 45% 92.16 $36,300 23:1 45% 42% 16 75 Yes No
Florida Gulf Coast University View School Profile $ 45% 91.96 $41,200 22:1 24% 59% 5 65 Yes No
Flagler College-St Augustine View School Profile $$ 65% 91.96 $37,200 18:1 82% 48% 0 26 No No
Ringling College of Art and Design View School Profile $$$$ 65% 91.54 $32,800 11:1 65% 85% 0 13 Yes No
Hobe Sound Bible College View School Profile $ 44% 89.99 N/A 11:1 58% N/A 7 11 No No
Southeastern University View School Profile $$$ 40% 89.47 $32,600 18:1 79% 44% 11 51 Yes Yes
Trinity Baptist College View School Profile $$ 42% 89.41 $26,700 12:1 79% 64% 0 13 Yes No
Bethune-Cookman University View School Profile $$ 35% 89.35 $28,700 16:1 80% 64% 2 38 Yes No
Webber International University View School Profile $$$ 33% 89.15 $35,800 23:1 98% 51% 3 18 Yes No
Johnson & Wales University-North Miami View School Profile $$$$ 42% 89.05 $35,100 25:1 99% 70% 1 12 Yes Yes
Lynn University View School Profile $$$$ 40% 88.61 $35,500 18:1 80% 75% 8 31 Yes Yes
The Baptist College of Florida View School Profile $$ 58% 88.55 $29,900 15:1 44% 56% 15 15 No No
Hodges University View School Profile $$ 18% 88.36 $38,100 15:1 37% 74% 15 18 Yes No
Edward Waters College View School Profile $$ 23% 88.19 $25,600 15:1 69% 53% 0 17 Yes No
Florida Memorial University View School Profile $$ 41% 88.15 $27,700 16:1 18% 21% 0 36 Yes Yes
St Petersburg College View School Profile $ N/A 88.15 $32,000 22:1 23% N/A 10 24 Yes Yes
Florida State College at Jacksonville View School Profile $ N/A 87.78 $32,100 22:1 15% N/A 3 11 Yes Yes
Miami Dade College View School Profile $ N/A 87.22 $30,500 23:1 24% N/A 0 11 Yes Yes
Broward College View School Profile $ N/A 86.79 $33,400 27:1 23% N/A 1 10 Yes Yes
South Florida Bible College and Theological Seminary View School Profile $ N/A 86.71 N/A 8:1 N/A N/A 3 12 No Yes
Indian River State College View School Profile $ N/A 86 $28,700 26:1 11% N/A 8 15 Yes No

Find Florida Colleges That Meet Your Needs

Early into their research, applicants may discover which characteristics of colleges in Florida matter most to them. For some, the primary concern may be the tuition rate; for others, the student population size or location. Potential students can use the search tool below to compare Florida colleges according to the criteria that they value, which may help them eliminate some options and move others up the list.

Florida College Support & Preparation Programs

The college preparation process should be started before a student's final years of high school. Some students have full access to all the information they need about college entrance through their family, school counselors and college recruiters. Others, though, have a more difficult time preparing for college; maybe their parents didn't go to college, English isn't their first language or have an unstable home life not conducive to good grades. There are programs in Florida that help such students plan for college. Some examples:

Black Male College Explorers Program

In 1990, Florida A&M University instituted the Black Male Explorers Program, which is now at different colleges throughout the state. The program is an "at-risk prevention and intervention program" designed specifically to prevent black males from dropping out of high school. The program also helps students with their entry into college and improves their chances of earning a college degree. Students are selected through middle and high schools all over the state. According to the program handbook, BMEP also "encourages students to develop personal responsibility, respect for individual differences, and an inquiring mind."

College Reach-Out Program

The Florida Department of Education established CROP in 1983, and its goal is to increase the number of students who successfully enter and complete college. The primary objective is to "strengthen the educational motivation and preparation of low-income and educationally disadvantaged students in grades 7-12." Children of various cultural backgrounds are specifically targeted, especially those who would be unlikely to go to college without special support and recruitment. CROP offers weekend tutorial classes, leadership development, personal counseling, and on-campus university living. Special summer services include a five-week program held on campus, with a full class schedule.

Florida Upward Bound

Upward Bound is a U.S. Department of Education program, but many colleges and universities in Florida have branches and offices. Upward Bound provides support to students from low-income families and those in which neither parent holds a bachelor's degree. The goal is to increase the rate of students who complete secondary education and, ideally, four-year colleges. Tutoring and counseling services are available through the program as well as services that are designed to improve the financial and economic literacy of students. Upward Bound programs must teach math, lab science, composition, literature and a foreign language.

Assessing Florida College Costs

There are many factors that influence the cost of an education from a Florida college. Tuition cost is affected by both residency-whether a student lives in - or out-of-state-and financial aid, including federal and private grants, loans and scholarships. The graphic below will help potential students identify the cost of Florida colleges and universities compared to national rates, specific to tuition fees and the percentages of students receiving financial aid.

Colleges in Florida With the Most Affordable Prices

On the other side of the earning-potential coin is college affordability. We ranked six Florida colleges based on their net price, which is the cost of attending at full tuition/credit cost minus the average amount of financial aid received. By looking at this graphic, students can get a gauge on these schools, as well as compare them to the national average.

  1. Indian River State College: $1,918
  2. Saint John Vianney College Seminary: $2,035
  3. Palm Beach State College: $2,557
  4. Yeshivah Gedolah Rabbinical College: $3,333
  5. Lake-Sumter State College: $3,886
  6. Chipola College: $3,926

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Florida Colleges Producing Best-Paid Graduates

While it's never a guarantee, graduates of some schools tend to earn more than those of others. Salaries vary by degree programs and other factors, of course, but six Florida colleges stand above the rest as having highest-paid alumni. Students can view the information below to see schools' alumni's annual median earnings ten years out of school, and how they compare to the national average.

  1. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University: $60,900
  2. Florida Institute of Technology: $53,100
  3. University of Miami: $52,400
  4. University of Florida: $51,300
  5. Adventist University of Health Sciences: $51,100
  6. Jacksonville University: $47,700

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

Florida Colleges With Lowest Student Debt

Another concern for potential students, and perhaps the most important one, is that regarding student debt. No graduate wants to finish their degree program and have to pay back thousands of dollars in loans. Some universities do a better job than others at offering students financial aid, along with educating their student body on the availability of that assistance. Below are the top six schools in Florida that produce the alumni with the lowest student debt, and how they compare to others across the country.

  1. Valencia College: $10,500
  2. College of Central Florida: $10,626
  3. Seminole State College of Florida: $11,143
  4. Trinity Baptist College: $12,000
  5. Florida College: $12,000
  6. Santa Fe College: $12,432

Source: College Scorecard
Note: Rankings/data represent 4-year public and private nonprofit schools only.

How Much do Florida College Students Pay in Living Costs?

Florida meets the national average for cost-of-living, with everyday expenses like food, housing, transportation and utilities being similar to many places across the country. Prices of these items will always fluctuate between urban and rural areas. Students should consider their total cost of college to include these pieces, and should understand that rent, groceries, and gas will all up their bill. The information below illustrates the comparisons of these items among different cities across the state.

AREA¬†COMPOSITE INDEX HOUSING GROCERIES UTILITIES TRANSPORTATION HEALTH CARE MISC. 
Statewide Average99%94%104%100%105%97%100%
Jacksonville98%89%100%114%102%86%101%
Miami-Dade County113%130%109%97%112%104%105%
Orlando96%93%103%96%101%93%96%
Tallahassee97%92%108%88%105%96%97%
Tampa92%78%98%103%100%91%94%

Source: The Council for Community and Economic Research

Florida Colleges & Accreditation

Accreditation is the evaluation of an educational program that verifies it meets specific state, regional and national standards. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges is the regional accrediting body for southeastern states like Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and others. The SACSCC operates according to six core values: Integrity, continuous quality improvement, peer review/self-regulation, accountability, student learning and transparency. Without a body like this to ensure accountability among educational programs, there would be no way for students to assess the quality of the program to which they apply.
While the SACSCC accredits many Florida colleges, other bodies accredit industry-specific degree programs. A couple of examples:

Florida's Top College Cities

Gainesville

Gainesville has a population of nearly 130,000. Its population is largely made up of students and faculty from both the University of Florida and Santa Fe College; UF alone accounts for about 53,000 people. The town has a blend of a college-town feel and natural landscape; there are seven Florida state parks for its residents to enjoy for outdoor activities.

College Name School Type Annual Net Price Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After College

Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.

University of Florida Public $12,762 $54,800
As Florida's first land-grant institution, UF can trace its origins to 1853. As of the fall, 2015, it had 52,500 students and 29,000 faculty members. Ninety-six percent of freshman continue on to their second year, and more than half of students start their degree program with no student loan debt. The college boasts strong Division 1 athletic programs, attracting recruits from around the country.
Santa Fe College Public $8,126 $35,900
SFC had more than 22,000 students during the 2014-2015 academic year. This is a larger student population than many public universities have, though most of those students attend part-time. The average age is 25 years old. SF offers many two-year degree programs, and nearly half of those are awarded to students as associate in arts degrees. Santa Fe also has an athletics program where the Saints compete in volleyball, baseball, softball, and men and women's basketball.
City College - Gainesville Private not-for-profit $24,011 $22,900
City College's Gainesville campus offers associate degrees in multiple fields, including criminal justice, emergency medical services, legal assisting, veterinary technology and mental health technology. The campus also offers bachelor's degrees in health care administration, management and project management.

Jacksonville

Jacksonville is the 12th-most populous city in the United States and the largest city in Florida. The economy in the city is diverse with industries such as naval and military, aerospace and healthcare. The colleges in Jacksonville support this economy's need for a qualified workforce.

College Name School Type Annual Net Price Annual Median Earnings
10 Years After College

Only includes former students who received federal financial aid.

Florida State College at Jacksonville Public $6,197 $33,800
Florida State College at Jacksonville offers more than 150 degree programs, including bachelor's degrees, associate degrees, technical certificates, and university transfer degrees. The college meets the needs of more than 50,000 people per year. The average student age is 26, and the students represent 120 countries. FSCJ also offers the Early College High School program in which students can earn their associate degree with their high school diploma.
University of North Florida Public $22,672 $72,900
The University of North Florida offers 70 degree programs, including 28 graduate degrees. It's known for its degrees in coastal biology nursing, and music, and also includes degrees in fields like business, engineering, health and education.
Jacksonville University Private not-for-profit $22,351 $48,800
Jacksonville University offers 70 majors, minors and pre-professional programs. It has six colleges and includes an Honors Programs for advanced students. The school offers nearly 20 NCAA Division I sports teams. The ECHO program ensures that JU grads gain real-life experience through study abroad, research, volunteering or interning. It's known for its nursing program, as well as its aviation partnership with Aeroism Flight Academy.

Source: College Scorecard

Florida College Resources

There are many additional online resources for students looking to attend Florida colleges. Every learning institution has a site with specific information about its programs, financial aid opportunities, and admissions requirements. Here are some additional sources that may be helpful:

  • CAREERwise Education: Resources provided include career exploration tools, which help students best utilize their interests and skills. For those not yet in college, college-planning tools can help students figure out which school is right for them and how to pay for it.
  • Minnesota College Savings Plan: This is a version of the popular 529 college savings plan. What makes this savings plan special is the tax and estate planning benefits it receives.
  • Minnesota Office of Higher Education: For reliable and readily available consumer information about colleges and universities in Minnesota, this website is one of the first places prospective students should visit.
  • Minnesota State College Student Association: The MSCSA is comprised of students who are attending public, two-year colleges, with the goal of promoting high quality two-year college education to students.
  • Minnesota Transfer: This resource helps with college transfers. A plethora of information is available, such as an explanation of the transfer process, financial aid considerations and the transfer application process.
  • Minnesota's Private Colleges: The Minnesota Private College Council represents various private and nonprofit liberal arts colleges and universities. In connection with the Minnesota Private College Fund, the council helps low and middle income families pay for tuition.
  • Ready Set Go: This is Minnesota's information hub for high school students looking for ways to achieve college credits while still in high school.
Become Team
Become Team
Contributing Writer