2022 Top Public Colleges and Universities in Florida

Public colleges and universities are often the most affordable option for students pursuing higher education, but it’s not just affordability that makes these institutions attractive. Public colleges and universities also rank highly among the best institutions in many states, Florida included.

Public institutions receive state and federal funding. Although they generally have larger class sizes than private institutions, they also tend to offer a wide variety of academic programs, diverse student bodies, and prestigious research opportunities.

2022 Best Public Colleges and Universities in Florida

At BestColleges, we believe a college education is one of the most important investments you can make. We want to help you navigate the college selection process by offering transparent, inclusive, and relevant school rankings.

Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our ranking methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.

  1. #1

    University of Central Florida

    Orlando, FL

    Graduation Rate

    72%

    Enrollment

    69,402

    Format

    Online, In person

    University of Central Florida, which operates a campus in Orlando, Florida, often ranks as one of the best colleges. Learners choose from a variety of degree-granting programs. The programs offer academic and technical tracks to help learners meet their career goals. Students can earn an associate degree in two years, a bachelor's degree in four years, a master's degree in 1-2 years, or a doctoral degree in 3-7 years. Applicants may qualify for a standardized test score waiver. Students may find it easier to apply without a test score requirement. The admissions department can provide more information on the process. Financial aid provides options for degree-seekers to pay for their education. The school holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  2. #2

    Florida International University

    Miami, FL

    Graduation Rate

    63%

    Enrollment

    58,711

    Format

    Online, In person

    Florida International University, located in Miami, Florida, enrolls students as a public institution. Experts in diverse disciplines teach at the institution. The school offers academic and technical programs for students planning to enter the workforce or pursue further studies degree. The amount students pay per credit is currently unknown. Enrollees at the accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid, including grants and loans. According to the institution, 90% of students receive aid and 29% receive loans. The school reports a graduation rate of 63%. The admission rate for prospective students is 58%. Admissions advisors can provide more information about application requirements and start dates. Florida International University has received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

  3. #3

    University of Florida

    Gainesville, FL

    Graduation Rate

    88%

    Enrollment

    52,407

    Format

    Online, In person

    University of Florida is a public institution located in Gainesville, Florida. Learners study with experts in many different fields. Students who complete an academic or technical program enter the workforce or pursue a bachelor's degree. The amount students pay per credit is unknown at this time. Students at the accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid programs, including the Pell Grant. At the institution, 92% of students receive financial aid and 22% take out loans. The school reports a graduation rate of 88%. The admission rate is 37% for incoming students. Applicants can reach out to the admission department to learn more about enrolling. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

  4. #4

    University of South Florida-Main Campus

    Tampa, FL

    Graduation Rate

    75%

    Enrollment

    44,246

    Format

    Online, In person

    A top-ranked school, University of South Florida-Main Campus enrolls learners in programs from its campus in Tampa, Florida. Students choose from a variety of degree-granting programs. The school offers academic and technical tracks to help learners meet a variety of professional goals. At the institution, students typically complete an associate degree in two years, a bachelor's degree in four years, a master's degree in 1-2 years, or a doctoral degree in 3-7 years. Depending on the program, applicants may need to submit standardized test scores. These policies make it easier to apply. The admissions department can help students complete the application process. Financial aid helps degree-seekers pay for their education. University of South Florida-Main Campus holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

  5. #5

    Florida State University

    Tallahassee, FL

    Graduation Rate

    83%

    Enrollment

    42,450

    Format

    Online, In person

    A public institution located in Tallahassee, Florida, Florida State University grants degrees through multiple programs. The school offers accredited degrees that prepare learners for the workforce. Degree-seekers benefit from academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. Multiple programs at the school appear in national rankings. The cost per credit is unknown. As an accredited institution, degree-seekers qualify for federal student aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. The school reports that students receive an average aid award of $ 9442, making the average tuition cost after aid $ 12568. The institution offers both academic and technical programs. Depending on their program, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  6. #6

    University of Florida-Online

    Gainesville, FL

    Graduation Rate

    Not Provided

    Enrollment

    3,926

    Format

    Online

    A public institution located in Gainesville, Florida, University of Florida-Online offers multiple programs. The school offers programs that prepare learners for the workforce. The programs offer an academically rigorous course of study at an affordable price. Many of the school's degrees make national rankings. The school's cost per credit is unknown. Students attending the accredited institution may qualify for federal financial aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Students receive an average aid award of $7670, lowering the average tuition cost after aid to $9755. The school offers both academic and technical programs. Depending on their major, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. University of Florida-Online holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  7. #7

    The University of West Florida

    Pensacola, FL

    Graduation Rate

    46%

    Enrollment

    12,557

    Format

    Online, In person

    From its campus in Pensacola, Florida, The University of West Florida enrolls students in programs as a public institution. Students earn an accredited degree that prepares them for the workforce. Learners benefit from academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. The school boasts several programs that appear in national rankings. Learners can expect to spend around 356 per credit at the school. As an accredited institution, degree-seekers qualify for federal student aid programs, such as the Pell Grant. Students receive $ 8789 in aid on average, lowering the average tuition cost after aid to $ 7515. Degree-seekers choose from academic and technical programs at the school. Depending on their major, students complete foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The University of West Florida holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  8. #8

    Valencia College

    Orlando, FL

    Graduation Rate

    42%

    Enrollment

    47,940

    Format

    Online, In person

    From its campus in Orlando, Florida, Valencia College offers academic programs as a public institution. The school offers accredited programs that prepare learners for the workforce. Learners benefit from academically rigorous programs at an affordable price. The school offers nationally ranked programs in diverse fields. Data on the school's average cost per credit is currently unavailable. Degree-seekers at the accredited school may qualify for federal financial aid, including the Pell Grant. Students receive $6269 in aid on average, lowering the average tuition cost after aid to $4484. Degree-seekers choose from academic and technical programs at the institution. Based on their major, students take foundational courses, technical classes, and general education requirements. The school holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting body.

  9. #9

    University of South Florida-Sarasota-Manatee

    Sarasota, FL

    Graduation Rate

    47%

    Enrollment

    2,207

    Format

    Online, In person

    University of South Florida-Sarasota-Manatee, located in Sarasota, Florida, welcomes students with 27 program options. The institution's programs offer a rigorous course of study. The student-to-faculty ratio at the school is 12-to-1. The school reports that 84% of students receive financial aid. Learners graduate from the school at a rate of 47%. Graduates often benefit from hands-on experience, which makes them more competitive candidates on the job market. Applicants can expect admission rates of 24%. Some programs no longer require test scores for admission. The admissions office provides more information about application requirements and start dates.

  10. #10

    St Petersburg College

    Clearwater, FL

    Graduation Rate

    33%

    Enrollment

    28,853

    Format

    Online, In person

    St Petersburg College, located in Clearwater, Florida, enrolls students as a public institution. The college offers academic and technical programs to help learners reach their educational goals. The institution's degree and certificate programs offer coursework that prepares learners for a career in their field. Applicants may qualify for test-optional admissions. Test-optional policies make it easier to enroll. Learners benefit from support services, which include tutoring and career counseling. The cost per credit is unknown. Learners at the accredited school can pay for their educational costs with federal student aid programs. St Petersburg College holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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

Pros

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.

Cons

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.