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Why Go to College in Florida?

Florida has just about everything a college student might want. The state has a thriving economy and a wealth of online and brick-and-mortar schools to meet the diverse backgrounds, needs, and career interests of any student. Additionally, Florida students enjoy the state’s several professional and college sports teams, a thriving nightlife, and its trademark sunny climate. All together, Florida is one of the most college-friendly — and online college-friendly — states in the nation.

Population

With more than 20 million residents, Florida is the third most populous state in the U.S. Florida is also home to three of the five most populous colleges nationwide: the University of Central Florida (UCF), Florida International University (FIU), and the University of Florida (UF).

Climate

Known as the “Sunshine State,” Florida’s climate is, unsurprisingly, sunny and tropical. It is frequently hot and humid throughout the year, with a rainy season throughout the summer and part of the fall (May through October). College students should pack t-shirts, shorts, flip flops, and umbrellas.

Number of Higher Learning Institutions

Florida is home to 439 institutions of higher learning, which include large state schools (e.g. UCF, FIU, and UF) and small liberal arts schools (e.g. Eckerd College and Rollins College).

Sporting Events

Florida has teams in every major sports league, including MLB (the Miami Marlins), the NFL (the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Miami Dolphins), the NBA (the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat), and the MLS (Orlando City). College football is also enormously popular in Florida, and the University of Florida and Florida State University (FSU) are perennial powerhouses.

Nightlife

Florida contains a number of nightlife hubs. Panama City Beach — located on Florida’s panhandle — is a classic spring break destination for college students. Further south, Miami provides a more glitzy nightlife option, where students can rub shoulders with celebrities on any given night.

What Options are Available for Colleges in Florida?

On-Campus

While Florida has many small liberal arts colleges, most students attend one of the large state universities. These schools include well-known names such as FSU, UF, FIU, UCF, and the University of South Florida (USF). Students at these schools enjoy an urban setting with diverse populations. They also take advantage of the many nightlife and sports options, just a few of the leisure activities available to Florida’s college students outside of class.

Online Programs

In addition to on-campus options, there are several online colleges in Florida. While an on-campus program functions in a traditional manner — featuring in-person classes, lectures, and structured coursework — online programs are often more flexible. Known as asynchronous learning, students can work through material at their own pace, download lectures from a website, and watch them at their convenience. However, some online programs do operate similarly to in-person programs and require students to attend online lectures at a defined time — a format known as synchronous learning.

Online programs are great options for students who work part-time or have schedules that prevent them from attending traditional classes. Online programs are also suitable for students who want to work at their own pace, and retain some flexibility and agency in their learning. Since online programs require a lot of independence, they should be considered by students who are self-motivated.

Hybrid Programs

Hybrid programs — also known as “blended learning” — include both in-person and online elements. For example, a typical hybrid program may require students complete some coursework on-campus at a university, and then complete the rest online and asynchronously. These programs often include an in-person orientation, as well. Hybrid programs are an excellent option for students who need the flexibility of online programs, but also appreciate the peer interaction of traditional, on-campus courses.

Popular Degree Programs in Florida

Many of Florida’s universities have strong programs in criminology, making it a popular choice of major among students. Perhaps no major has more students than business administration, however. The state is also home to several Fortune 500 companies, which provide countless networking and professional opportunities for internships and post-graduation careers.

  • Business Administration

    The study of business administration prepares students for business management positions at a wide variety of companies. Florida’s business-friendly economy attracts many companies, and students of business administration in Florida are well-prepared to land upper management positions.

  • Criminology

    Criminology is the scientific study of crime and the people who commit crimes. Graduates with criminology degrees find work as corrections officers, parole officers, bailiffs, or in any field that is relevant to crime prevention.

Education Trends in Florida

The state of Florida allocates less money for higher education per full-time student than the national average. Florida also is below average in terms of the percentage of citizens who hold bachelor’s and graduate degrees, and for the percentage of tax revenue the state earmarks for higher education. However, Florida is above the national average in the percentage of adults over 25 who hold an associate degree, as the state offers a number of great associate degree options.

  Florida United States
Source: SHEEO and U.S. Census
Postsecondary Education Spending per Full-Time Student $5,881 $6,954
Percent of Tax Revenue Allocated to Higher Education 4.5% 5.8%
Percentage of adults over 25 with associate degree 9.4% 8.1%
Percentage of adults over 25 with bachelor’s degree 17.5% 18.5%
Percentage of adults over 25 with graduate degree or higher 9.8% 11.2%

Paying for College in Florida

The cost of college should always be a factor when deciding where to earn your degree. Fortunately, higher education is more affordable in Florida than many other states. For both two-year and four-year institutions, Florida’s tuition fees are considerably cheaper than the national average. However, each student needs to weigh the affordability their program with their present and future financial picture.

Tuition Prices

Tuition for an average two-year public institution in Florida costs a few hundred dollars less than the national average; tuition for an average four-year public institution in Florida costs over $3,000 less than the national average. While Florida colleges are particularly affordable, students should also factor in other related costs, such as books, transportation, housing, and food. Fortunately, online schools in Florida usually offer the same tuition rates as their on-campus counterparts.

Financial Aid

Students should explore every financial aid opportunity available to them, and that begins by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA determines a student’s eligibility for federal student funding, such as loans, grants, and work-study programs. After completing the FAFSA, students should turn to their individual schools to see what scholarships or grants may be available based on need and/or merit. Only as a last resort should students pursue loans from private third parties.

Cost for Online Programs in Florida

A common misperception is that online programs are more expensive than on-campus programs, or that it is harder for students to qualify for financial aid. These are myths. Each of the financial aid programs discussed above apply equally to online and on-campus programs. In fact, by selecting an online school in Florida, students can avoid many of the fees on-campus students must pay, such as transportation, books, childcare, and meal plans. Online students can also work while attending school, thereby reducing the financial strain even further.

Cost of Living by Region

It’s no secret that the cost of living varies across the country, and it should also be a factor as students consider where to attend school. Schools in smaller towns may have lower tuition rates and lower costs of living, but jobs may be harder to come by. Conversely, a big city will have a higher cost of living, but with a more robust economy. Fortunately, Florida’s major college cities generally offer affordable cost of living. Both Tampa (home to USF) and Tallahassee (home to FSU) are relatively cheap given their size.

Scholarships for Florida College Students

Florida Student Assistance Grants

$200-$1,500. Must be a U.S. citizen, maintain a 2.0 GPA, and take at least 12 credits.

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William L. Boyd IV Florida Resident Access Grant

Award amount varies. Must attend a Florida college, maintain a 2.0 GPA, and take at least 12 credits.

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Florida Work Experience Program

Award amount varies. Must demonstrate need, maintain a 2.0 GPA, and take at least six credits.

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Jose Marti Scholarship Challenge Grant Fund

$2,000 +. Must be of Spanish heritage, with a parent born in Spain or Latin America. Must maintain a 3.0 GPA.

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Ethics in Business Scholarship Program

Amount varies. Must be enrolled at a Florida community college or approved Florida private school.

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Rosewood Family Scholarship Fund

Award amount varies. Must be a descendant of Rosewood families affected by events of January 1923.

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Seminole and Miccosukee Indian Scholarship

Award amount varies. Must be member of Seminole or Miccosukee tribes.

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Mid-Florida Society of Professional Journalists Scholarship

$1,000-$2,500. Must be pursuing a career in journalism, maintain a 3.0 GPA, and be enrolled in a Florida school.

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SME Education Foundation Scholarship

$1,000-$6,000. Must be pursuing a technical or engineering education.

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Jacki Tuckfield Memorial Graduate Business Scholarship

$2,000. Must be an African-American graduate of Miami Dade Public Schools pursuing a career in South Florida.

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Judge Sidney M. Aronovitz Memorial Scholarship

Award amount varies. Must be a minority graduate of Miami Dade Public Schools.

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Florida Bright Futures Scholarship

Award amount varies. Must be a Florida resident and be enrolled in at least six credits.

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KASF Scholarship

$500-$5,000. Must be a Korean-American demonstrating need. Must attend school in the southern region (AL, FL, GA, SC, TN).

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Sarah E. Honeycutt Scholarship

Award amount varies. Must be female. Must have a demonstrated interest in the game of golf, must not have earned a varsity golf scholarship.

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SE4A Scholarship

$1,000. Must be pursuing a career in gerontology or geriatrics. Must be in school in the southeast (AL, GA, MS, FL, TN, KY, NC, SC).

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Innovation in Education Scholarship

$500. Must have a 3.0 GPA and submit an original idea to improve education.

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Barbara L. Frye Scholarship

$2,000. Must be pursuing a career in journalism.

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Tractor Supply Company Scholarship

$3,000. Must be studying an agriculture-related field.

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Birdsong Peanuts Scholarship

$1,000. Must be pursuing a four-year degree in either agriculture or agribusiness.

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Fastline Publications Scholarship

$1,000. Must demonstrate need and be pursuing a four-year degree in agriculture.

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Can all Scholarships be Used for Online Programs?

Yes! Most scholarships can be used for any type of program, whether it is on-campus or online. However, students should always verify that their scholarships include online programs. Check with your granting organization, as you may find that a particular scholarship has additional programmatic requirements.

Employment Outlook in Florida

Florida’s employment opportunities are fairly in-line with the national average. The Sunshine State’s unemployment rate and annual mean wage are both slightly lower than the national average. Here, the service industry and sales dominate the market and create plenty of job opportunities. Disney is, by far, the largest employer in the state, employing 62,000 people at Orlando’s Disney World Resort alone. Miami is also a hub for employment, as the school’s public school system and government are the Sunshine State’s second and third largest employers, respectively.

  Florida United States
Source: BLS and BLS
Unemployment Rate, May 2017 4.1% 4.3%
Annual Mean Wage, May 2016 $44,050 $49,630

Top Employers and Industries in Florida

Top Industries in Florida

  • Office and Administrative Support: Secretaries and clerks are the backbone of an office, keeping companies organized and ensuring they stay on schedule.
  • Sales: The sales field is far-reaching — ranging from high-level sales representatives to cashiers. Nearly every company and industry has sales employees.
  • Food Preparation and Service: The service industry is a big part of Florida’s economy. Chefs, cooks, and waiters prepare food and serve it to customers.

Source: BLS


Top Employers in Florida

  • Disney: 62,000 employees
  • Miami Dade County Public Schools: 54,300 employees
  • Miami Dade County Government: 32,200 employees

Accreditation for Colleges in Florida

When selecting an online college in Florida, it is crucial to consider what accreditation it holds. There are two primary types of accreditation: regional and national. Regional accreditation is generally considered more rigorous and prestigious, while national accreditation is reserved for trade and for-profit schools. The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) oversee each of these accrediting bodies, so be sure to consult their websites for a full list of accredited schools and agencies. There are also program-specific accrediting bodies, which certify a program or department within a school.

Resources for Students in Florida

If you’re considering an online college in Florida, there are a number of official resources to help you with your decision.

 

  • The Florida College System: The Florida College System is the state’s collection of 28 locally-governed institutions of higher education (i.e. UF, FSU, etc). In fact, many of Florida’s high school students stay within the state, as 65% of Florida’s high school grads attend college within the Florida College System. If you are enrolled in a Florida college — or considering enrolling — this site can offer educational and career support.
  • State University System of Florida Board of Governors: The Board of Governors is a group of 17 individuals who oversee the state’s 12 public universities. The board’s planning page is a particularly useful resource for Florida’s college students, as it offers state job placement data for each major, the state’s office of equity and access, and other websites.
  • Commission for Independent Education: Florida’s Commission for Independent Education oversees nonpublic, postsecondary education throughout the state, and includes all of the state’s private colleges. Their website provides help in selecting a college, along with links to the websites of regional and national accrediting bodies active in the Sunshine State.
  • Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA): This office administers Florida’s state-sponsored grants and scholarships and guarantees federal loans. This site is an invaluable resource for any student applying for a grant or loan from the state, as it houses the OSFA’s guidelines and tips.
  • Florida Department of Education (FDOE): This government agency oversees all matters related to education in Florida, including higher education.
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