The best colleges in Florida for students interested in going to school in the Sunshine State This resource provides information on programs, outstanding faculty, and other characteristics of the best universities in Florida.
We’ve ranked the twenty best schools in the state of Florida based on several criteria, including data provided by the U.S. Department of education, outstanding academic programs, accomplished faculty, and strong job placement rates.
Many of these schools offer degrees in popular major areas such as business, nursing, and education, but we also took into consideration unique and in-demand major offerings that each school provides. We’ve also taken into consideration career preparation programs and other extracurricular factors that contribute to the overall quality of these top Florida schools.
The Best Florida Schools 2019
10. University of North Florida
Situated in the city of Jacksonville, the University of North Florida shines in student interaction and engagement, with 16,500 students, and an 18:1 student-faculty ratio. The school has six colleges featuring the arts and sciences and an honors college.
The school offers graduate programs in health, education, and business, and in 2018, around 87% of its seniors took part in professional internships before they graduated. There are around 12 fully online programs available to students at UNF, including Doctor of Nursing Practice, RN-BSN, Master of Science in American Sign Language, and Graduate Certificate in Early Childhood programs.
9. Florida International University
Students who want a large public university experience in a big-city environment should check out Florida International University, located in Miami. The school has over 47,000 undergraduate students and offers degrees from the bachelor’s level through the doctoral level through their 11 colleges, including a renowned honors college. It’s also one of the top granters of bachelor’s degrees to undergraduates of Hispanic descent, consisting of approximately 60% of the 2018 student body. Florida International University also has the top law school bar passage rate in the state.
There are more than 200-degree programs, including those in law and medicine, offered by Florida International University, many of which are available fully online. The school is also home to over 40 centers of many disciplines that provide opportunities to promote research, community engagement, and the pursuit of knowledge. With the addition of over 300 academic and cultural organizations and clubs, students are sure to find a group to help develop their mind, beliefs, and networking contacts.
8. The University of Tampa
The University of Tampa has over 200 areas of undergraduate study. This school had an average class size of 21 students and a student-faculty ratio of 17:1 in 2018, with popular majors including international business, nursing, marketing, finance, and biology/environmental science.
Focused on developing leadership abilities in its students, the University of Tampa offers a variety of leadership programs and institutional research projects. One example is the school’s unique Learning By Doing program, which consists of undergraduate research and internships. The university also has an innovative program for first-year students that are designed to expose them to global and cultural issues, find possible career paths and strengthen their skills in communication/critical thinking.
7. Flagler College – St. Augustine
Another small liberal arts school on our list, Flagler College in St. Augustine is focused on developing the entrepreneurial spirit of their students. Flagler also encourages students to push themselves through conducting research, studying abroad, and completing internships. In most of the school’s degree programs, an internship and/or experiential learning component complements coursework and helps students gain experience in the professional world.
The school has a 16:1 student-faculty ratio, enabling the students to feel connected to and heard by their professors and likely contributing to their impressive academic performance leading to more job opportunities upon graduation. Approximately 83% of Flagler’s 2018 graduates had jobs or plans for graduate school, volunteer work or military service within several months of graduation. Flagler students have been hired at many reputable companies, including Amazon, CNN, Disney, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Orlando Magic, PGA Tour Entertainment, and United Healthcare, to name a few. Graduates from Flagler have also pursued higher degrees from top universities like Columbia, Harvard, Oxford, and the University of Pittsburgh.
6. New College of Florida
One of the smaller schools on our list at under 900 students in 2018, the New College of Florida strives to promote student engagement, graduate school success and to require a relatively inexpensive cost. The New College is the liberal arts honors college of Florida, but also the home to several first-class scientific facilities, including a sciences center that houses many research labs, an archaeology lab, an academic center, and a biology research center that features more than 100 aquariums.
From its Sarasota campus, New College students can choose from over 40 areas of academic concentration, and degrees awarded include an array of Bachelor of Arts degrees and a Master’s of Science in Data Science. Ninety-seven percent of New College’s 91 faculty members have terminal degrees, and the 10:1 student-faculty ratio helps students get personalized learning experiences from their professors. This results in an average class size of 17, which makes for an arguably more personalized educational experience compared to courses at larger universities.
5. Ave Maria University
Ave Maria University is a small Catholic liberal arts university with a student body of a little over 1,000 in 2018. The university offers a wide array of degree programs in subjects including accounting, Catholic studies, early Christian literature, economics, finance, healthcare management, managerial economics and strategic analysis, marine biology, psychology, and theology.
Since the school has a student-faculty ratio of 14:1, it boasts smaller-than-average class sizes. Ave Maria students are also encouraged to take advantage of the school’s sophomore success program, employer partnerships, and career prep model to better prepare them for success in school and upon graduation. Around 40% of students who interned while in school were offered full-time jobs at their respective organizations. In fact, according to the school’s website in 2018, 80% of Ave Maria students gain employment or made plans for graduate school shortly following graduation.
4. The University of South Florida
Priding itself on being a global research university that places a large emphasis on its students’ success, the University of South Florida-Main Campus earns the #4 spot on our list of Top Florida Schools. Students can choose from over 180 undergraduate majors/concentrations, with popular areas of academic study including business, engineering, health, and arts and sciences. Some of the school’s top graduate programs include audiology, criminology, library and information studies, rehabilitation counseling, industrial/manufacturing engineering, and clinical psychology.
In 2018, 60 members of the University of South Florida faculty were esteemed Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the fourth most of any one university worldwide. The Florida Board of Governors designated the university as a Preeminent State Research University in 2018. The university seeks to ensure it is accessible financially, so the school grants many Fulbright scholarships to its students to help them reduce the cost of their degree programs.
3. University of Central Florida
The main campus of the University of Central Florida is located in Orlando, with 9 other regional campuses sprawled throughout the state. Majors throughout UCF’s 13 colleges include psychology, health sciences, nursing, hospitality management and health services administration. To help students prepare for careers in the workforce, the university offers co-ops, service-learning projects, internships, and extensive career services. The largest of UCF’s colleges, with over 20 bachelor’s degrees and 25 master’s degrees is the College of Sciences, which offers opportunities to participate in a field working internationally in places like Egypt and Peru. The University of Central Florida also works to ensure their students are happy and engaged in social and cultural activities by offering over 600 student organizations and clubs.
In terms of the school’s value and affordability, UCF reported in 2018 that 48% of its students graduate without any financial debt. With a six-year graduation rate of over 70% for students who began their degrees in 2011, UCF is doing its part in preparing its students to succeed academically, financially and professionally.
2. Florida State University
As the University of Florida, Florida State University offers many degree programs, including over 100 undergraduate degrees, 120 master’s degrees, 80 doctoral degrees, as well as a law program and medical school. The university also ensures their students are given the opportunity to study abroad with options throughout the world, including some special summer programs in Italy, Panama, England, and Spain.
Florida State has incredibly high retention and graduation rates, with 94% of freshman in 2016 returning for the next school year and 80% of students who began in 2011 graduating within six years. This may be due in part to the fact that FSU has a renowned faculty, some of whom have accrued a high number of honors and awards from prestigious associations, including 60 Associate of American Universities awards, 160 Top American Research University awards and 358 additional honors.
1. University of Florida
Located in Gainesville, Florida, the University of Florida has earned our #1 spot for the Best College in Florida. With over 50,000 students, this university has cemented a strong academic reputation since its founding. Boasting an impressive array of academic offerings, with 100 undergraduate options, 200 graduate programs, and 30 certificates, the University of Florida has something for everyone.
Not only does UF provide ample options for learning, but they also do so with a stellar faculty. Two University of Florida faculty members have won Pulitzer prizes, while as of 2018, there are 43 faculty elections to prestigious organizations, including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences Engineering and the Institute of Medicine. In addition to its impressive faculty, UF contributes to the world of technology with an award-winning biotechnology incubator, and it has even launched around 200 startups based on researchers’ technologies. In fact, UF’s devotion to innovation is even integrated into 30 of its majors, through its unique Innovation Academy, focused on fostering creativity in a small college environment.