Why Choose a Public College or University in Florida?
Deciding whether to attend a private or public institution is usually one of the first steps for students trying to choose the right college.
Some students may select a private university because they prefer smaller class sizes, allowing them to build rapport with professors. However, choosing a public or private institution often comes down to academic options and finances.
There are 28 member colleges in the Florida College System, including 12 public four-year universities. Public colleges and universities in Florida receive government funding, which allows them to offer discounted tuition to state residents. Private colleges, on the other hand, primarily rely on tuition, donors, and private funding.
Consequently, the average tuition rate at private, four-year colleges is usually significantly higher than at public four-year colleges. While in-state tuition is more affordable for state residents, Florida is also a member of the Academic Common Market (ACM).
The ACM gives students the option to pursue a program of study in another state at participating ACM institutions. While most of the consortium allows student participation at undergraduate and graduate levels, Florida only allows graduate-level participation.
Pros and Cons of Attending a Public College or University in Florida
Public four-year colleges are less expensive than private colleges, especially for in-state students.
Public four-year colleges tend to attract a more diverse student body.
Government funding gives public colleges and universities in Florida the ability to provide various research facilities and labs.
Public four-year colleges provide more degree program options than most private colleges.
Private colleges and universities generally offer more financial aid and scholarship opportunities for students than public colleges.
Larger class sizes makes it more difficult for students to engage in one-on-one communication with professors.
Large class sizes can make it difficult for some students to feel engaged and motivated.
Administrative tasks like transferring credits and securing a place in popular courses can be more difficult at larger institutions.
Nonprofit vs. For-Profit Universities in Florida
There are distinct differences between nonprofit and for-profit universities. Nonprofit universities receive government funding and endowments, which they invest back into college operations. All public universities are nonprofits.
For-profit colleges are privately owned. They operate education businesses focused on making money.
There are 207 for-profit universities in Florida. There are both pros and cons to for-profits. These universities offer fewer admission requirements, more academic flexibility, online classes, and skills-based training.
However, for-profit colleges can be expensive, provide fewer support services, and have lower graduation rates. Additionally, lack of accreditation can make it difficult for graduates to enter the job market. This leads to disproportionately high rates of student debt among for-profit college graduates.
You can check a university’s website or call the school’s admissions office to determine if a university is a nonprofit or a for-profit school. This information is also available via the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator tool.
How Much Does It Cost to Attend a Public College or University in Florida?
Tuition at the most and least expensive public institutions in Florida varies by a couple of thousand dollars for state residents.
In 2020-2021, one of the least expensive public institution tuition and fee rates for in-state students was $2,963 at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City. Among the most expensive was the New College of Florida, with in-state tuition and fees of $6,916 for 2022-2023.
Additionally, in-state versus out-of-state tuition is significant. The average cost including tuition and required fees at public four-year colleges and universities in Florida was $4,463 for undergraduate state residents in 2019-2020. Out-of-state students paid $18,514, on average, for tuition and fees. Room and board averaged $10,774.
Private university tuition typically remains the most expensive option for students in Florida. In 2019-2020, tuition and fees at private institutions averaged $27,381. Other costs students should consider in their budgets includetextbooks and supplies, technology fees, parking, travel, and miscellaneous expenses.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Public Colleges and Universities in Florida
How many public colleges and universities are there in Florida?
There are 40 public four-year colleges and universities in Florida. Twelve of these institutions make up the State University System of Florida. The system employs over 60,000 faculty and staff and has an annual operating budget of over $8.5 billion. Florida established statewide governance in 2003 to operate, regulate, control, and manage all public four-year colleges.
Sixty-five percent of Florida’s high school graduates begin their postsecondary education at a state college. Eighty-two percent of first-year and sophomore minority students in the state attend a school in the Florida College System.
The best public schools in Florida offer honors and early college/dual enrollment programs. Additionally, adult learners can take college courses for personal and professional development or career preparation.
What is the most expensive public college or university in Florida?
New College of Florida was among the most expensive for state residents in 2022-2023, with an in-state tuition of $6,916. Also, Florida International University had an in-state undergraduate tuition of $6,168, for 2021-2022. Tuition for state residents at the most and least expensive public universities in Florida only varies by a few thousand dollars.
However, out-of-state students pay many thousands more. For example, the cost of tuition and fees at New College of Florida for out-of-state students was $29,944 for the 2022-2023 school year.
Student expectations, costly administrative overhead, and increasing expenses for educating and housing students contribute to the ever-increasing cost of college.
What is the least expensive public college or university in Florida?
In 2020-2021, the in-state tuition of $2,963 at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City was among the least expensive rates.
However, with a tuition and fees cost of $14,984, it isn’t one of the most inexpensive public colleges annd universities in Florida for out-of-state students. Broward College in Fort Lauderdale is among the least expensive public universities for non-residents, with tuition and fees of $8,952.
Also, remember, affordable college doesn’t only depend on tuition rates. The most and least expensive public schools in Florida offer financial aid packages that can significantly reduce the cost to attend college.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can help students qualify for various financial aid packages.
What is the biggest public college or university in Florida?
While public four-year colleges typically have larger campuses and more students, there are both big and small public schools in Florida.
The University of Central Florida (UCF) leads the state, with a 2021 fall enrollment of 70,406 students. UCF offers 106 bachelor’s degree programs, 95 master’s degree programs, and 31 research doctorate programs.
UCF also has an accredited College of Medicine and the Rosen College of Hospitality Management. What’s more, the number of incoming National Merit Scholars ranked UCF among the top 25 universities in the country. The college has an operating budget of $2.1 billion, and UCF researchers received $211 million in funding for fiscal year 2021.
Is a public university right for me?
Ultimately, a quality education, student academic services, and financial aid opportunities are top reasons most students pick a specific university. However, school size, social life, student diversity, and the location also determine if a public university is right for you.
One big difference between private colleges and public universities in Florida is the learning environment.
Public four-year colleges and universities usually have bigger campuses and larger classes than private colleges. Self-driven, independent learners may find that a public college suits them. On the other hand, students who do better with more classroom engagement and assistance may opt for a private college.