30 Best Value Colleges And Universities In Florida

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Best Value Florida Schools

By Iris Stone

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Even mentioning the word “Florida” likely brings up thoughts of theme parks, sandy beaches, cruise ships, and retirement communities – and it’s certainly true that Florida packs a lot of character into just one state. But Florida also excels when it comes to college education, and students who want warm weather, southern charm, and quality academics all in one place may find their answer here.

Need flexibility? Check out our ranking of best value online colleges and universities in Florida.

When starting your school search, narrowing down the location is just one part of your decision. It can be complicated to determine the perfect mix of qualities that will make your college experience an unforgettable one. But there are a few indicators that most students will agree hold high appeal – factors like cost, student satisfaction and retention, selectivity and popularity, and long-term alumni success. Using a combination of these metrics, we’ve produced a top 30 ranking of the absolute best values in the Floridian education system.

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Top 30 Value Colleges And Universities In Florida

  1. University of Central Florida
    Location

    Orlando, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    At the top of our list we have the University of Central Florida, a school that boasts the highest undergraduate enrollment in the country. What attracts these 52,000 young students to UCF every year? Ranked a top up and coming university by U.S. News, UCF has attracted national attention with an exceptional 70% graduation rate and an impressive 20-year net ROI of more than $300k. UCF is hands down one of the best colleges in Florida; in addition to being a space-grant institution, the school is also known for its contributions in optics, simulation and modeling, digital media, engineering, computer science, and more.

  2. University of South Florida
    Location

    Tampa, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of South Florida is one of only three top Florida colleges to receive top tier research classification by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. With an annual budget of over $1.6 billion, this impressive institution supports an incredibly high level of research and education across three campuses. Tampa is home to most of the doctoral research at USF, as well as the colleges of nursing, medicine, public health, and pharmacy. The waterfront campuses at St. Petersburg and Sarasota are more intimate, but they still offer a combination of over 40 degree programs, including nationally recognized digital media/journalism and hospitality programs.

  3. Florida State University
    Location

    Tallahassee, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Founded in 1851, Florida State University is not only one of the top colleges in Florida; it is also the oldest continuous site of higher education in the state. FSU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and features national ranked programs in business, engineering, medicine, social policy, and more. But FSU offers more than just a historical tradition of academic excellence: on its 500 acre campus, FSU hosts everything from NCAA Division I athletics to the FSU Museum of Fine Arts (FaMo), as well as student media groups that include both radio and television programming.

  4. Florida International University
    Location

    Miami, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Florida International University is Miami's first and only public research university, and it's not hard to see why they haven't bothered to add another one. FIU is not only one of the best universities in Florida; among 191 programs of study and 280 degree programs, FIU houses the 6th highest ranked international business program in the U.S. And with a net price of just over $11K, it's an attractive choice for all the top students in Florida. In fact, FIU attracts more southern Florida valedictorians than any other school in the country and boasts a competitive acceptance rate to boot.

  5. University of Florida
    Location

    Gainesville, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    With a top 15 ranking out of all public universities in the country (according to U.S. News), and membership in the Association of American Universities (the only elected member in the state), the University of Florida is easily one of the top colleges in Florida. This prestigious, historical college boasts a 2,000-acre campus with over 19 historical academic buildings, dormitories, and churches alongside world-class modern athletic and performance facilities. And with an impressive 88% graduation rate, you can be certain that UF will put you on the path to success in your education, degree, and career.

  6. University of West Florida
    Location

    Pensacola, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Nature lovers will find a home away from home at the University of Western Florida. Set on a natural reserve in wild Pensacola, the 1,600-acre campus of this top university in Florida consists of rolling hills and woodland areas that run alongside the scenic Escamba River. The coastline of Pensacola Bay also makes UWF's underwater archeology program one of the most prestigious in the world. The rich resource draws researchers and grant money from around the globe to fund excavations in which both graduate and undergraduates can participate. UWF also has waterfront property on Santa Rosa Island, where students can pursue research, academic, and of course fun recreational opportunities.

  7. University of Miami
    Location

    Coral Gables, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Ranked 53rd in Forbes' list of the top research universities in the nation, the University of Miami is a cheap Florida college with a lot to offer. From UM's oceanography and atmospheric studies facilities in Virginia Key to their 1.3 million-volume library system and nationally dominant NCAA Division I football team, there is no shortage of opportunities for even the most ambitious students. UM is also known for its bi-weekly school newspaper, The Miami Hurricane, which has been honored in the Associated College Press Hall of Fame for its commitment to excellence over nearly 100 years.

  8. University of North Florida
    Location

    Jacksonville, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Why has the Princeton Review ranked the University of North Florida among its best value colleges for so many years? For one thing, its 53 undergraduate degrees include numerous top programs, including nationally recognized opportunities in business, coastal biology, nursing, nutrition, and music. In fact, UNF's Jazz studies program is internationally recognized, and ensembles perform regularly at popular festivals around the globe. What's more, UNF's Transportation Logistics Program within the business school is notably ranked above programs at Stanford, Harvard, Penn, and Wisconsin. All in all, it's a no brainer that UNF is one of the best colleges in Florida.

  9. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
    Location

    Tallahassee, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    FAMU is the only public, historically black college in the state of Florida, and also one of the largest in the nation by enrollment. But the lack of competition hasn't made them slack: the National Science Foundation has ranked FAMU #1 among all HBCUs in the nation for research and development expenditures annually. FAMU is also a member-school of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which financially supports nearly 300,000 African-American students around the country in their pursuit of higher education. Combined with an already low tuition, this makes FAMU an attractive choice for students looking for a rigorous and affordable college in Florida.

  10. New College of Florida
    Location

    Sarasota, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The only public liberal arts college in the state, the New College of Florida is a unique school for unique students. New College features a bayfront campus in Sarasota, just outside of an arts district that is home to such cultural hubs as the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and the Asolo Repertory Theater. But what really sets New College apart is its academics, as the school rejects grades in all forms. Instead, students enjoy an individualized curriculum and spend the entire month of January engaged in independent study. Add to this a mandatory senior thesis project (regardless of discipline) and it's easy to see why New College is the perfect cheap college in Florida for strong-willed, independent thinkers.


  • Methodology: Here's How We Rank Schools


    At Best Value Schools, we help students of all ages get the best possible value for their education. When choosing the best schools and programs, we prioritize tuition rates, student debt, financial aid opportunities, graduation rates, and the availability of online programs.
    We source unbiased data from government and educational databases like the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 6,374 schools across the U.S. We organize that data into five weighted categories to compile our school rankings.

    Metric Data Used Percentage
    Academic Quality Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates 25%
    Affordability Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid 35%
    Reputation Admission and enrollment rates 15%
    Program Offerings Number of program options 10%
    Online Enrollment Score Portion of learners taking at least one online course 15%

    You can read more about our comprehensive evaluation process on our methodology page.


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Factors Considered When Ranking Schools

Graduation Rate: This indicator refers to the percentage of students who complete their degree within 150% of normal time (six years for a typical four-year degree program). Schools that perform well in this area have a track record of keeping students engaged and successful for their entire time on campus. We weighted this category 30% of the total and retrieved the information from College Navigator.

Net Price: In order to make sure that cost was still a factor in the ranking, we also considered overall net price as an indicator. Taken from data on College Navigator, “net price” is an approximate value that refers to the average amount of money a student could expect to pay each year after taking into account tuition, room and board, living expenses, scholarship awards, and financial aid packages. We weighted this category 25% of the total.

Acceptance Rate: Academically challenging, popular universities tend to be more selective and thus have a lower acceptance rate. In order to pinpoint those colleges that boast rigorous academics and also receive a large number of applications, we considered acceptance rate – the percentage of students out of the total number of applicants who receive an acceptance letter. We retrieved this information from College Navigator and weighted it 30% of the total.

20-Year Net Return on Investment: Taken from information on the website PayScale, this statistic provides a picture of how much students can expect to make after they graduate from a particular college. More specifically, the figure is calculated by taking the average income an alumnus will make over his or her first 20 years after graduation and subtracting the amount paid in tuition. Schools with a high ROI tend to be better at preparing their students for the job market. We weighted this category only 15% because data was not available for all colleges considered.

After adding all the points, we gave each university a final score out of 200. The schools below have scores ranging from 85 to 160, and each has something different to offer in terms of its cost, quality, and reputation. No one college is perfect (which is why the scores vary so much) but this ranking offers you a premier selection of universities to help get you started on your search for an education in Florida.


Sources:
College Navigator
Pay Scale

About the Author:
Iris Stone began her writing career as a freelance writer and researcher. She now owns and operates a writing and editing firm that works with clients all across the country. Her work has included articles related to education policy, colleges and universities, academic programs, and careers.

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