Looking to enroll in online colleges or a traditional college in Florida? Florida boasts a diverse mix of public and private universities and colleges offering degree programs both on-campus and in the virtual classroom.
The State University System of Florida includes 12 public universities. Some of these institutions — including the top universities in Florida — have flagship campuses as well as satellite locations to make them more accessible. In total, the system serves more than 300,000 students and is the second largest system in the nation.
As for private institutions, Independent Colleges & Universities of Florida represents 29 not-for-profit schools across the state from Pensacola to Jacksonville to Miami. They enroll more than 130,000 students and offer classes at 128 sites around the state. These private schools account for approximately a quarter of bachelor's degrees and a third of all degrees awarded in Florida.
Some Florida residents may prefer to begin or further their education at a two-year school. In that case, the Florida College System includes 28 member schools that offer both technical training and associate degree programs. Thanks to the "2+2 system," those earning an A.A. degree at a Florida community college can easily transfer their credits to one of the state's public universities or a participating private institution. including one of the best schools in Florida listed below.
While colleges in this ranking aren't fully online colleges, you may find an academic opportunity to engage in online curriculum at many of these campus-based Florida schools.
Best 4-Year Colleges in Florida
The best four-year colleges in Florida are the ones that are affordable, offer flexible class options and degree programs, and graduate their students on time. Using a methodology that considered these factors and others, here are school profiles of the ten top schools in Florida.
The University of Florida is a selective school that attracts top students from across the nation. For instance, its 2016 incoming freshman class had an average GPA of 4.35 and an average SAT score of 1919. That means UF isn't for everyone, but those who are admitted can find an innovative institution that is home to rigorous academics and a robust research program.
There are 16 colleges at the University of Florida, covering diverse fields from journalism to law to veterinary medicine. The school is also one of the top online universities in Florida. In addition to its hundreds of on-campus degree options, there are numerous online degrees can be earned in popular majors such as psychology and nursing. UF is also home to a top-rated online MBA program.
With a campus in Gainesville, the University of Florida is the state's largest university and the nation's fourth largest, according to the State University System of Florida.
Florida State University, founded in 1851, holds the distinction of being the oldest continuous site of higher education in Florida. Its flagship campus is in Tallahassee. Other FSU locations include Panama City, Sarasota and the Republic of Panama.
Containing 16 colleges, FSU is second only to the University of Florida when it comes to the number of degree programs it offers. In addition to campus study plans in popular fields such as psychology, business and the sciences, the university is one of the top Florida schools for online degree programs. Florid State offers more than a dozen degree programs, such as undergraduate degree completion programs, that are designed for distance learners.
Nearly 42,000 students attend Florida State University each year. The school's faculty includes Nobel Laureates, Fulbright Scholars and Guggenheim Fellows.
As Miami's only public research university, Florida International University is another of the top colleges in Florida. The Southeastern Florida school offers a number of innovative learning opportunities such as the world's only underwater ocean laboratory and a Wall of Wind storm simulator. The Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival is also held annually at FIU.
What's more, undergraduate and graduate students alike looking for the best colleges in Florida for online degree programs may have to look no farther than Florida International University. The school offers numerous undergraduate bachelor's degree programs in majors such as criminal justice, political science and finance. Students can also earn online graduate degrees, undergraduate and graduate certificates and take continuing education courses online.
Florida International University is part of the State University System of Florida.
The University of Miami is a private school in Southeastern Florida that attracts top-tier students from across the nation and world. Its more than 17,000 students create diverse learning communities within the university's 11 colleges and schools. These include schools of business, law, medicine and nursing. Within many of the colleges and schools, there are also a number of distinguished institutes and centers and opportunity for taking online courses.
Often referred to as UM, the University of Miami has a long history of providing quality education. It has an extensive alumni network and counts former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill among those who have received honorary degrees from the university.
The 12:1 student-to-instructor ratio at UM helps promote personalized learning, and the school has a strong track record of retaining students after their freshman year — both good reasons why UM is one of the best universities in Florida.
Based in Tampa, the University of South Florida is another affordable option for students seeking on-campus or online Florida degree programs. Founded in 1956, the school is part of the State University of Florida System.
One of the best universities in Florida and a selective school, USF enrolls more than 50,000 students that represent more than 145 countries. Of those, a significant number of students receive financial aid. There are 14 colleges offering majors and concentrations that include popular programs in arts and sciences, business, health and engineering.
Those who aren't able to attend classes in Tampa can still earn an online bachelor's degree in Florida through the school's degree completion program and its online courses. It may not count as one of the fully online colleges, but this option allows those with an associate degree or the equivalent education to take their upper-level classes online. There are also online graduate programs available.
When it comes to education options, the accredited University of Central Florida is another standout. The school notes that it attracts more National Merit Scholars than any other institution in Florida, and it says nearly half its students graduate without debt.
The accredited university's 13 colleges offer more than 200 majors. As one of the best online colleges for Florida, there is a long list of bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs available to distance learners. For example, students can earn online a B.A. in criminal justice, a B.S. in psychology, a Master of Social Work and several doctoral degrees in nursing. The school also has a number of online certificate programs.
UCF has 13 colleges, including an innovative College of Optics and Photonics. Its main campus is in Orlando, but ten regional locations make its educational programs accessible to students across central Florida.
As one of the best universities in Florida, Nova Southeastern University has eight regional campuses throughout the state and in Puerto Rico. Those locations make its programs accessible to people from diverse backgrounds and may be one reason why NSU is among the top schools in the nation when it comes to awarding graduate degrees to minority students.
NSU has 18 colleges, schools and centers which, combined, offer more than 240 degree programs. In addition to popular fields such as law and psychology, the university has colleges for specialized studies in oceanography, osteopathic medicine and allopathic medicine. Its institutes include the National Coral Reef Institute and the Rumbaugh-Goodwin Institute for Cancer Research.
More than 60 degrees can be earned online at NSU. These include a bachelor's degree in health services administration and a master's degree in education.
Founded in 1961, Florida Atlantic University is another member of the State University System of Florida that joins several of its sister institutions as one of the best schools in Florida. Its main campus is in Boca Raton, but five other regional campuses are available.
For those looking for the best online colleges in Florida, there are distance education degree programs available through seven of the university's ten colleges. These include popular fields of study such as business, sciences, nursing and the arts. Many majors are available fully online at both the undergraduate and graduate level. In addition to online courses, the school offers night and weekend classes for those who need a nontraditional schedule.
Meanwhile, on-campus students may work alongside faculty to conduct research in sciences such as biomedicine or ocean engineering, or coastal security. Like other top Florida universities, FAU offers a rigorous academic experience and a rich campus life to its students.
Named in honor of Dr. Carlos Albizu-Miranda, this university has campuses in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Miami, Florida. It is a private, nonprofit school that was the first professional school of psychology to be established in North America and the Caribbean.
Since its founding in 1966, Albizu University has expanded to offer degree programs in a variety of fields. The school's Miami campus has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and a bachelor's degree in elementary education among others. However, psychology continues to be a focus at Albizu University, and the Miami campus has more than a dozen degree and certificate programs in the field.
For distance learners, Albizu University offers master's degree programs in industrial and organizational psychology and teaching English to speakers of other languages.
Founded in 1972, the University of North Florida is yet another affordable choice for Florida students. Its six colleges — including the Brooks College of Health and the Coggin College of Business — are known for their nationally ranked degree programs.
While the accredited UNF has its campus in Jacksonville, online degree programs are available. However, with few exceptions, online learning at the University of North Florida is limited to graduate degree programs and online courses.
As one of the top schools in Florida, the vast majority of UNF seniors participate in internships to gain hands-on experience prior to graduation. Jacksonville's University of North Florida also prides itself on providing a dynamic student experience. Its sports teams are part of the NCAA Division I, and there are hundreds of student clubs on campus.
The University of West Florida is another of the best colleges in Florida. In addition to dozens of on-campus degree programs, students hoping to earn an online bachelor's degree in Florida can choose from one of the school's degree completion programs.
As a regional school that is smaller than some of the other top colleges in Florida, UWF strives to create a close-knit community. On its Pensacola campus, students can participate in Greek life, attend one of hundreds of annual events or join one of the school's many intramural teams and sports clubs.
UWF was founded in 1961 as the sixth member of the State University System of Florida. In addition to its main campus, the university has an Emerald Coast location in Fort Walton Beach and maintains more than two dozen historic properties.
Located along the St. Johns River, the Jacksonville University campus is a mix of old and new. The school was founded in 1934, and students study in historic buildings as well as modern facilities.
This private university is among the top Florida schools thanks, in part, to its quality academic programs. Popular majors include nursing, kinesiology and aviation management. Distance learners can enroll in an online RN to BSN or earn one of a handful of graduate degrees including an online MBA.
JU has more than 100 majors, minors and programs available and maintains a 14:1 student-teacher ratio. On-campus students can participate in Greek life or join one of numerous social, cultural, religious or service organizations. The school also has 21 teams that participate in Division I athletics.
Rasmussen University got its start in 1900 as the Rasmussen Practical School of Business in Stillwater, Minnesota. Since then, the school has expanded to six states, including Florida. It continues to offer business education programs but also has degree programs in six other areas of study.
The university operates Florida campuses in Fort Myers, Land O' Lakes, New Port Richey, Ocala, Altamonte Springs and Tampa. At these locations, students can choose from dozens of education programs that result in diplomas, certificates, associate degrees and bachelor's degrees. Programs in many popular fields, such as accounting and early childhood education, are available entirely online.
On-campus students at Rasmussen learn in facilities and labs intended to provide hands-on, real-world experience. Both traditional and online students can access campus study areas and computer labs.
Saint Leo University is the oldest Catholic institution of higher learning in the state, but it welcomes students of all faith backgrounds. The school maintains 35 regional learning sites and has a large catalog of online degree programs. Across all locations and platforms, Saint Leo University educates nearly 13,000 students each year.
Campus degree programs cover nearly a dozen areas of interest and result in associate, bachelor's or master's awards. Online and regional education centers also have doctoral degree options. Some programs, such as the associate degree in business administration, are available both online and on-campus. Others, like the bachelor's degree in liberal studies, are only offered online.
In addition to the pursuit of higher education, students at Saint Leo can participate in a wide range of campus sports, from track and cross country, to lacrosse, baseball, tennis, soccer, and more.
Since opening its doors in 1988, Florida National University has focused on providing students with the skills needed to find professional success and personal fulfillment. The university is a private institution, and its education awards range from certificates to master's degrees.
The school's main campus is in northwest Miami-Dade County, but FNU also offers classes online and at two other locations. Online options include opportunities to earn a career education diploma to become a medical coding and billing specialist, a computer information technology associate degree and a bachelor's degree in legal studies.
Traditional and online students are eligible for academic advising, a writing lab and job placement services. High school students can gain early access to FNU programs through a dual enrollment program.
Florida Southern College is regularly listed among the top colleges in Florida. It's notable not only for offering innovative academics but also for being a top producer of Fulbright Scholars. Three of Florida Southern's most popular degree programs are in the fields of elementary education, business administration and nursing.
Nearly 3,500 students enroll at the college each year, and Florida Southern makes them three promises: the school guarantees students can graduate in four years, have access to internships and have the opportunity to study abroad.
Founded in 1883, Florida Southern is the oldest private college in the state. It maintains a 14:1 student-faculty ratio and more than 80 percent of students are happy enough with their education to return to the school after their first year.
Lynn University is a small school that is doing big things. The university has ranked among the nation's most innovative schools, is known for its amazing arts center and graduates students with relatively low debt.
Two hallmarks of a Lynn education are its Dialogues core curriculum that increases exposure to the classic liberal arts and the integrated use of iPad technology. The school's accelerated degree option makes it possible to earn a bachelor's degree in most majors in three years. Students have more than 80 academic programs from which to choose.
Students also have the opportunity to study abroad and participate in internships during their time at Lynn. The school reports that eight in ten graduates are employed or continuing their education within one year of finishing their program.
With approximately 20,000 students, Keiser University is the third largest, not-for-profit university in Florida. It was founded in 1977 and has since developed a reputation for being one of the top universities in Florida.
Keiser University operates 21 campuses across the Sunshine State. The Fort Lauderdale campus includes computer and medical labs, a library, career center and more. Students can choose from a long list of associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs. These study plans encompass fields such as nursing, education, criminal justice and business.
A number of Keiser programs are available online, such as the school's associate in accounting and bachelor's in criminal justice. Other programs, like the one for medical assisting, are offered online but have some on-campus requirements.
Students are invited to launch their future at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Founded in 1968, PBA is an interdenominational Christian university that offers 55 undergraduate majors as well as graduate and professional degree programs. It enrolls more than 3,500 students annually.
PBA has nine schools and six Centers of Excellence. The latter include the LeMieux Center for Public Policy, Center for Biblical Leadership and Rinker Center for Experiential Learning. Degree programs cover popular fields of study including education, business, science and the humanities.
Based in beautiful Lakeland, Southeastern University is just a short drive from beaches, amusement parks and other entertainment options. However, as one of the top universities in Florida, it isn't just a great campus environment that attracts students to SEU. They also come to this fast-growing school for quality academics and a Christ-centered education.
SEU has more than 70 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. These cover six broad areas of interest including arts and media, ministry and theology and education. The university's student-faculty ratio is 20:1, allowing students the opportunity to interact personally with professors.
Online degree programs and evening classes make it convenient for adult learners to pursue a higher education. Some of the programs available to distance learners are a Bachelor of Business Administration, a B.S. in digital media and design and a Master of Divinity.
Most Popular Degree Programs in Florida
On-campus and online degrees in Florida can be earned in a variety of majors. However, these are the programs that attract the most students in the state, from Jacksonville to Orlando to Tampa, including at some of the best universities in Florida.
Costs, Financial Aid and Scholarships in Florida
The best schools in Florida come with vastly different price tags. Public institutions are typically the most affordable option, particularly if you're a state resident. Out-of-state students and those attending private schools generally pay much more for tuition and fees. To give you an idea of what to expect, the following numbers are the average tuition and fees published by Florida institutions for the 2017-18 school year, as reported by the National Center for Education Statistics.
- Public 2-Year Schools (in-state): $2,506
- Public 2-Year Schools (out-of-state): $9,111
- Public 4-Year Schools (in-state): $4,455
- Public 4-Year Schools (out-of-state): $18,241
- Private 4-Year Schools (in-state): $25,531
While these are the published prices, you could pay much less at some of the top colleges in Florida. Our guide on How to Pay for College outlines some of the different ways to reduce the cost of higher education.
The Office of Student Financial Assistance in the Florida Department of Education also offers a number of financial aid programs to state residents. These include the Bright Futures Scholarship, First Generation Matching Grant and Florida Resident Access Grant, among others. Plus, students may be eligible for federal aid, institutional grants or private scholarships — potentially helpful when looking to enroll in an online or other program. Filling out the FAFSA is generally the first step in applying for aid.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Satisfactory academic progress and/or minimum 3.0 GPA are required to retain scholarship. Renewable for up to four years.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Renewable if recipient maintains a good scholastic record, financial need, and reapplies.
MAX. AWARD AMOUNT
Careers in Florida
For both traditional students and nontraditional students, the available degree options at top Florida schools can be overwhelming. However, you can narrow down your choices by using a career quiz or looking for programs — from online colleges or campus-based ones — that can lead to in-demand careers. The following are a few of the jobs expected to see the most growth in Florida in coming years. These occupations may be likely to grow for several reasons:
- Solar energy seems like a natural fit for Florida's sunny weather, and Duke Energy has announced plans to invest $1 billion in solar generation from 2018 to 2022.
- An aging population and more insured individuals mean demand for healthcare services is likely to grow in Florida, along with the number of medical professionals needed to meet that demand.
- The tech sector is growing in Florida, particularly in the Miami area, and fueling demand for information security and technology professionals.
|Career Title||Projected Job Growth||Total Employment||Annual Salary|
|Solar Photovoltaic Installers||94.3%||-||$35,330|
|Home Health and Personal Care Aides||47.5%||76,040||$24,630|
|Rail-Track Laying and Maintenance Equipment Operators||45.8%||-||$46,560|
|Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers||40%||59,880||$99,840|
|Information Security Analysts||38.3%||6,630||$91,580|
|Physical Therapist Assistants||35.9%||6,780||$63,410|
|Terrazzo Workers and Finishers||35.6%||80||$43,420|
|Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists||35.6%||40,480||$61,700|
|Helpers--Brickmasons, Blockmasons, Stonemasons, and Tile and Marble Setters||33.2%||1,830||$29,050|
|Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary||33.1%||9,390||$113,140|
|Marriage and Family Therapists||32.7%||1,990||$46,330|
|Operations Research Analysts||32.6%||4,620||$75,500|
|Biochemists and Biophysicists||32.2%||430||$76,970|
|Structural Iron and Steel Workers||32.1%||2,840||$43,040|
|Occupational Therapy Assistants||31.8%||3,050||$65,710|
- State University System of Florida
- The Florida College System
- Florida Department of Education
- Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida
- Office of Student Financial Assistance
- Higher Education Coordinating Council
To get our list of the best colleges, we ranked four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. In order to be included in the ranking, schools had to report data for each of the following data points, and each school was then scored on a 100-point scale:
- The in-state tuition and fees for full-time undergraduates, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018-19
- The average amount of aid awarded to full-time, first-time undergraduate students, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- Percent of full-time first-time undergraduates awarded any financial aid, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- Median debt of graduates, College Scorecard, 2017-18
- 3-year student loan repayment rate of graduates, College Scorecard, 2016-17
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered on campus, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- No. of degree and certificate programs offered via distance education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017-18
- Percent of students enrolled in any distance education classes, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2018
- Full-time student retention rate, National Center for Education Statistics, Fall 2018
- Graduation rate within six years, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018
- Percent of students working and not enrolled 6 years after entry, College Scorecard, 2014-15
- Flexibility and student services, based on whether the school offers the following services, National Center for Education Statistics, 2018-19
- Dual credit
- Credit for life experience
- Advanced Placement credit
- Programs of study that can be completed entirely on weekends or in the evening
- Remedial services
- Academic and career counseling
- Job placement services for graduates
- Guaranteed tuition plan
- Tuition payment plan
- Any other alternative tuition plan
Note: Tuition prices are based on data for the 2018-19 academic year reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of tuition may vary.
- About Florida Southern College, Florida Southern College, Accessed January 2020, https://www.flsouthern.edu/about-fsc.aspx
- About Jacksonville University, Jacksonville University, Accessed January 2020, https://www.ju.edu/about/index.php
- About Saint Leo, Saint Leo University, Accessed January 2020, https://www.saintleo.edu/about
- Average Undergraduate Tuition and Fees, National Center for Education Statistics, Accessed January 2020, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d18/tables/dt18_330.20.asp?current=yes:
- Independent Colleges & Universities of Florida, Higher Education Coordinating Council, Accessed January 2020, http://www.floridahighereducation.org/members_icu.php
- Degrees and Programs, Nova Southeastern University, Accessed January 2020, https://www.nova.edu/index.html
- Demand for technology jobs grows in South Florida, Emon Reiser, March 27, 2019, South Florida Business Journal, Accessed January 2020, https://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/news/2019/03/27/demand-for-technology-jobs-grows-in-south-florida.html
- Duke Energy to build two new Florida solar plants that will power 46K homes, Michelle Lewis, January 29, 2020, Electrek, Accessed January 2020, https://electrek.co/2020/01/29/duke-energy-two-new-solar-plants-florida/
- Florida Campuses, Rasmussen College, Accessed January 2020, https://www.rasmussen.edu/locations/florida/
- Florida's Job Outlook: Demand for Healthcare Professionals Grows, March 25, 2019, The Boca Raton Tribune, Accessed January 2020, http://www.bocaratontribune.com/bocaratonnews/2019/03/floridas-job-outlook-demand-healthcare-professionals-grows/
- FNU History, Florida National University, Accessed January 2020, https://www.fnu.edu/fnu-history/
- Lynn Facts, Lynn University, Accessed January 2020, https://www.lynn.edu/about/lynn-facts
- Our Campuses, Albizu University, Accessed January 2020, http://albizu.edu/Discover-CAU/Our-Campuses
- PBA Facts and Data, Palm Beach Atlantic University, Accessed January 2020, https://www.pba.edu/about/facts/index.html
- Some Fast Facts, Keiser University, Accessed January 2020, https://www.keiseruniversity.edu/keiser-facts/
- State University System of Florida, Accessed January 2020, https://www.flbog.edu/
- Who We Are, Southeastern University, Accessed January 2020, https://www.seu.edu/about-southeastern-university/