The 3 Paths to a College Degree in Florida

Discover which of the Florida college pathways is the perfect choice for you

If you’re a high school student in Florida, you’re in luck! Your state boasts the best higher education system in the nation. And that’s not an opinion—it’s a fact established by the US News and World Report.

You have three high-quality college pathways to choose from. You can attend one of the state colleges in Florida, one of Florida’s state universities, or one of Florida’s private universities. 

World-class education and training is right at your fingertips—but which path is right for you? It’s nice to have different choices available, but it can get overwhelming. 

Are you better suited for Florida’s state universities or the Florida college system? Or maybe you’d be happiest at a private university in Florida. It’s difficult to know for sure. After all, you’re not a Florida college expert!

Fortunately for you, I am an avid researcher and admirer of all the colleges and universities in Florida. As a college planning consultant and Florida resident, I love helping local students determine which college direction is best for them.

Keep reading to explore the different college and university options Florida has to offer. Along the way, you’ll discover which educational pathway is perfect for you!

The Florida college system

Let’s start by examining the Florida college system and the unique advantages it offers to students.

How many state colleges are in Florida? 

There are 28 state colleges in Florida, and collectively they serve over 700,000 students every year. Wherever you live, there’s a Florida state college nearby—from Pensacola State College to the College of Central Florida to Miami Dade College.

What degrees are offered by state colleges in Florida?

Every Florida state college offers technical certificates that allow students to enter directly into a certified occupation. For example, you could become a certified automotive service technician, phlebotomist, or veterinary technologist.

State colleges in Florida also award associate’s degrees. After earning these degrees, students can either start working immediately or transfer all their coursework into a bachelor’s degree program. 

Some Florida state colleges also offer bachelor’s degrees in high demand fields like Nursing, Technology, or Education. For instance, Florida State College at Jacksonville offers a number of bachelor’s degree programs.

What are the admissions requirements for Florida state colleges?

State colleges in Florida are open to anyone, regardless of high school performance level. If you have a high school diploma or GED, you can enroll in the Florida college system. 

If you didn’t perform well in high school, but you’re ready to turn it around and apply yourself in college, Florida state colleges are a great option for you.

How much do state colleges in Florida cost? 

The Florida college system is the most affordable higher education option in the state. While exact tuition rates vary from college to college, let me share an example. 

At Daytona State College, a full-time student in an associate’s degree program can expect to pay less than $3,100 in tuition and fees for the entire year. This is an amazing value!

What financial aid options are available at state colleges in Florida?

Students who attend Florida state colleges can access standard federal financial aid options, such as the PELL grant or student loans. 

In addition, there are several state financial aid options available. These include the Florida Student Assistance Grant Program, the Florida Work Experience Program, and the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program. 

Students at Florida state colleges who require extra financial support can also apply for work-study, college scholarships, and tuition reimbursement plans. 

Is attending a Florida state college right for you?

Over 60% of Florida high school graduates enroll in a state college, so this is a popular educational pathway. 

If you’re eager to enter the workforce quickly, attending a Florida state college is perfect for you. The Florida college system is responsive to workforce demands and sends students directly into high-growth, essential careers. 

Going to a state college might also be a good choice if you want to study part-time while working or balancing other personal responsibilities. 

And we can’t forget the financial piece. If you want to earn an affordable bachelor’s degree, it’s smart to start with a low-cost transferable associate’s degree. 

The Florida state university system

Next, let’s see if attending one of the state universities in Florida is a good choice for you.

How many state universities are in Florida?

The Florida university system serves 300,000 students across 12 state universities. It’s the second largest state university system in the nation. 

The state universities in Florida are spread throughout the state, including Florida A&M in Tallahassee, University of Central Florida in Orlando, and Florida International University in Miami.

What degrees are offered by state universities in Florida?

Florida state universities award their graduates a variety of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees. You’ll find different offerings, programs, and specialities at each institution.

What are the admissions requirements for Florida state universities?

State universities in Florida are more exclusive than state colleges. Incoming freshmen must have a high school GPA of 2.5 or higher in order to even be considered. However, each university sets its own admission standards—and some are much harder to get into than others. 

For instance, the acceptance rate at New College of Florida is 73%, while the acceptance rate at the University of West Florida is a low 31%.

Beyond meeting specific GPA requirements, freshmen applicants must have also completed 18 core high school classes—including 4 years of English, 4 years of Math, and so on.

Bottomline, you do have to work hard and have a good academic record in order to get accepted to one of the state universities in Florida. 

How much do state universities in Florida cost? 

The average tuition and fees of Florida state universities is currently $6,030. It’s important to know, however, that the average total cost of attendance (including books, transportation, and room and board) rounds up to $22,780 per year.

What financial aid options are available at Florida state universities?

Students enrolled at state universities in Florida have access to the same federal and state financial aid options that state college students do. This includes grants, student loans, and state scholarships. 

But with higher total costs, these aid opportunities might not be enough to cover everything. Since state universities in Florida are more expensive, it’s important to explore outside scholarships. 

Is attending a Florida state university right for you?

Florida state universities offer a particular type of student experience. If you’re looking to join a large alumni network, take advantage of research opportunities, or get swept up in school spirit, you’d be a good fit for one of the state universities in Florida. 

Of course, you want to be sure your academic abilities are up to the task of attending a rigorous state university. If you’ve succeeded in AP, IB or dual-enrollment courses throughout high school, you’re probably up for the challenge.

And lastly, you have to ask yourself if your educational and career goals align with what the state universities in Florida offer. You should feel fairly confident in your career direction, otherwise you do risk wasting time and money. 

Private universities in Florida

The private colleges and universities in Florida are each individually run. It’s a bit more difficult to generalize about them, but I’ll give it my best shot!

How many private colleges and universities are in Florida?

You’ll find over 50 private colleges and universities located throughout Florida, and over 150,000 students who attend them. 

It’s a diverse group of institutions—from large research universities like the University of Miami to smaller, more intimate liberal arts schools like Eckerd College.

What degrees are offered by private colleges and universities in Florida?

Every private college and university in Florida awards bachelor’s degrees to its students. Just be aware that the majors and programs offered by each institution vary widely—so do your research.

As a general rule of thumb, private universities in Florida also offer master’s and doctorate degrees, but private colleges usually don’t. 

What are the admissions requirements for private colleges and universities in Florida?

Each private college and university in Florida sets its own admissions standards, so you’ll find a wide range of requirements and acceptance rates across the board.

In general, you should complete fairly rigorous college-prep classes in high school. But most private universities in Florida won’t disqualify you for admission if you have three years of Math instead of four.

That being said, some Florida private universities have high bars for admission—like Nova Southeastern, where the average GPA of accepted students is 3.8. 

On the other hand, Barry University’s average GPA is 3.05. You don’t have to be at the top of your class to get accepted to a private university in Florida.

How much do private universities in Florida cost? 

Once again, private colleges and universities in Florida vary widely in price and affordability. 

Flagler College in St. Augustine is a relatively affordable option, with tuition and fees around $20,000, but that’s the exception to the rule.

Many private colleges and universities in Florida will charge around $40,000 to $50,000 for annual tuition—making it the most expensive of the three college pathways (at least in sticker price).

What financial aid options are available at private colleges and universities in Florida?

Here’s the good thing about private colleges and universities in Florida—many offer large academic scholarships. And this is on top of any need-based federal or state aid you receive.

I’ll share an example. At Rollins College, the tuition is $53,000 per year. However, they offer 10 full-ride scholarships to each incoming class. In addition, they award other scholarships to students—ranging from $20,000 to $32,000—based on academics, leadership, and service.

So if you’re an exceptional student, you might be able to earn enough scholarships to make your private university tuition affordable. 

Is attending a private college or university in Florida right for you?

With their small class sizes and diverse student life offerings, many students are interested in attending the private colleges and universities in Florida. 

If you’re looking for a smaller college environment where you can receive personalized attention and professor mentorships, Florida’s private universities are the right fit for you.

If you want to get highly involved in campus life and step into leadership roles, you’ll be able to do that more easily at a small private college than at a large state university.

But of course, you have to consider financial fit as well. Affording some of the pricier private universities in Florida might only be possible if you can access top scholarships or if your family possesses the means to pay high tuition costs.

Final thoughts about Florida’s higher education systems

If you were a bit confused about Florida’s different higher education options before, hopefully I’ve cleared up most of your questions. The good news is that Florida offers you several great  college choices. And now you’re better equipped to decide which is the best one for you.

Here’s the thing—you don’t have to make this choice alone! Find a college planning consultant familiar with Florida’s unique higher ed system. I’d personally love to help you navigate your Florida college options and determine the best pathway for you. 

Go ahead and book your free consultation today!

Dr. Tucker established her own consulting business after a long, successful career working in higher education. Besides being an associate member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), she is also trained as a Life and Career Coach through the Institute for Life Coach Training.  She toured hundreds of colleges, networked with admissions reps from across the country, and spoken at national conferences about student success and college retention. Read more about her here.

College OpenSource

Sign up for a free membership below. Receive offers, college news and information about upcoming events that will help you make the right choice.

College OpenSource does not sell email addresses to colleges or other organizations.

By registering for an account, you acknowledge and accept the User Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy governing use of College OpenSource.