The reasons to attend college in Florida are plentiful. From access to the best beaches in the country—a perfect way to end a week of midterms—to warm weather that allows class to be held outside under palm trees and a warm sun, Florida college life has a lot to offer. And it has even more to offer if you are looking to get a degree in oceanography, maritime studies, aeronautics, engineering, ecology, and more, in which studying in Florida provides hands-on opportunities and access to some of the biggest and best organizations, research centers, and corporations in the country.
The trends are clear: attending college or university is increasingly and exponentially expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. Many schools are committed to making an undergraduate or graduate degree an affordable option for their students. Below are the top ten most affordable colleges and universities located in the Sunshine State. The tuition rates alone make attending college a possibility for almost anyone who desires it, and most of these schools offer additionally financial aid by way of scholarships, fellowships, and loans.
What Are the Cheapest Online Colleges in Florida?
But these are not just the most affordable colleges and universities; some of these schools are also the best, being regionally, nationally, and globally ranked. Whether you want to study fire science technology at Chipola College in Marianna or jazz studies at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, the schools below have something for everyone. Our information comes from PayScale, U.S. News & World Report, U.S. Department of Education, and the universities and colleges’ websites.
A state school located in Marianna, Chipola College enrolls just under 2,500 students in one of its bachelor’s or associate’s degree programs. Chipola also has college credit certificate programs as well as workforce development certificates.
Though Chipola doesn’t offer the broadest range of academic programs to choose from, those they do have emphasize vocational and professional development. Chipola students are fully prepared to enter or re-enter the workforce after graduation. For those who are looking to get into teaching, Chipola is a great choice. In addition to bachelor degrees in business administration (with the option to specialize in either accounting or management), Chipola also offers degrees in elementary education, English education, exceptional student education, mathematics education, nursing, science education, and an educator preparation institute certification program. Likewise, students can obtain an associate’s degree, then transfer those credits to another school or enter the workforce. AA degrees at Chipola include those in business administration, computer IT, criminal justice, culinary management, fire science technology, nursing, recreation technology, and early childhood education.
Chipola is known for its several championship-winning athletic programs as well as its regional presence in the art scene, particularly for the music and drama programming hosted through Chipola Theatre. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Lake-Sumter State College
Founded as a junior college, then a community college, Lake-Sumter State College (LSSC) received state college recognition in 2012. With its main campus in Leesburg, it is a member of the Florida College System with two other campus branches. LSSC students are highly involved in the Student Government Association, leadership institute, student-run publications, community service, and in the many organizations and clubs. LSSC also has a successful athletic program with teams competing in Division 1 conferences.
With the exception of one full bachelor’s degree (in organizational management), the academic departments at Lake-Sumter State College prepare students for transfer to another school by way of an associate’s degree, of which they offer eleven degree programs: general studies, business administration, computer IT, criminal justice, early childhood education, electrical distribution technology, engineering, environmental science technology, health IT, nursing, and office administration. If you only want your associate’s degree and will not seek further education after attaining it, LSSC fully prepares you to enter the workforce.
Lake-Sumter State College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Florida Atlantic University
One of the bigger schools on our list with over 30,000 enrolled undergraduates and graduate students, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) is a public institution known for its research contributions. FAU is comprised of ten colleges and nearly 200 academic degree programs in the arts, humanities, the sciences, medicine, computer science, engineering, architecture, social work, public administration, business, nursing, accounting, and education.
FAU receives accolades for its academic standing from a number of sources: U.S. News & World Report, The Princeton Review, Washington Monthly, and Forbes, to name a few. One of the reasons it ranks so well is due to its research affiliations, activities, and partnerships. FAU is home to the Center of Excellence in Biomedical and Marine Biotechnology as well as the Center for Ocean Energy Technology. It also allocates its research funding to projects on renewable energy, medicine, bioinformatics, and defense against bioterrorism.
If you’re looking to expedite your education, FAU offers a number of combined degree programs that allow you obtain a bachelor’s and master’s degree simultaneously. These degrees cover everything from civil engineering to geography, physics, and architecture. FAU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) is a public, historically black institution based in Tallahassee. It is part of the State University System of Florida, a land-grant university, and is home to approximately 10,000 undergraduates. FAMU is comprised of many colleges and schools, representing its diverse academic offering: business and industry, nursing, journalism and graphic communications, architecture and engineering, health science, technology, education, and social sciences and humanities. FAMU also offers three online masters degrees that you can earn from anywhere in the world: Master of Business Administration, Master of Public Health, and Master of Science in Nursing.
FAMU also boasts a strong commitment to research, partnerships, and service. Of the many institutes and centers on the FAMU campus, students have access to those promoting everything from environmental equity and justice to international agricultural trade and development. Research at FAMU is heavily (though not completely) allocated to agricultural and health sciences.
Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Florida A&M University is nationally ranked by Essence, Money, Forbes, and Washington Monthly magazines, for its academic standing, affordability, and its commitment to sustainability.
University of South Florida—St. Petersburg
Located in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg on the Tampa Bay waterfront, the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USF St. Pete) is a relatively small school with around 4,000 students. They offer a number of undergraduate certificate programs, bachelor degrees, masters programs, and graduate certificates. As a USF St. Pete student you can major in anything from anthropology to global business, world languages, environmental science, and much more. Unique to USF St. Pete, however, are a few programs of study you are unlikely to find at many other schools: digital journalism and design (which can be fully acquired online), Florida studies (which combines history, geography, political science, and more), and its social responsibility and corporate reporting degree.
Student social life at USF St. Pete is marked by participation in campus government, a commitment to an inclusive campus through the multicultural affairs department, and lots of opportunities to take advantage of the campus waterfront, with lessons in sailing, kayaking, wakeboarding, swimming and much more. In fact, the sailing teams at USF St. Pete are consistently ranked as top in the nation.
The University of South Florida—St. Petersburg is also home to a Salvador Dali museum, the Florida Institute of Oceanography, the Florida Marine Research Institute, and more. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Florida Gulf Coast University
A member of the twelve-campus State University System of Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) has approximately 15,000 students enrolled in one of its nearly 100 academic degree programs. FGCU has contributed widely through its research to a number of fields, including biotechnology, real estate, coastal watersheds, sustainability education, youth and justice studies, and more. It is regionally ranked by U.S. News & World Report and receives praise from The Princeton Review for its business school.
Comprised of its College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education, the College of Health Professions and Social Work, the School of Nursing, the Lutgert College of Business, and the Whitaker College of Engineering, there’s something for everyone at FGCU, and they even offer online classes and degrees too. In addition to these programs, FGCU is currently trying to grow its academic offerings, and has thus included a software engineering degree, an environmental forensics degree, and a medico-legal death investigator concentration.
Like some of the other schools on our list, FGCU students have great access to the waterfront, beach, and ocean, and all the recreational opportunities that go along with it. Florida Gulf Coast University is accredited by the Southern Commission on Colleges and Schools.
University of West Florida
Also part of the State University System of Florida, the University of West Florida is situated on a natural preserve, tucked next to two rivers and the Escambia Bay. A mid-sized research institution, UWF has about 13,000 students enrolled in one of its several colleges, which include the business, health, and engineering schools in addition to the College of Education and Professional Studies and the College of Arts, Social Science, and Humanities.
The University of West Florida holds a number of high rankings; it has been listed as one of “America’s Top Colleges” for many years by Forbes and is called one of the “Best Southeastern Colleges” by The Princeton Review. It is also frequently praised for its beautiful campus and its students’ involvement in the arts, student government, athletics, and its huge recreation program. UWF incorporates international experience into the curriculum, encouraging students to study abroad through one of its many programs that take students to over thirty countries.
Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the University of West Florida is both an affordable and flexible educational experience, offering over 400 online courses and dozens of online undergraduate and graduate level degrees.
University of Central Florida
The largest school on our list, with nearly 60,000 undergraduates and grad students, the University of Central Florida (UCF) is a huge, public research institution based in Orlando. Known primarily for its research in aeronautics, engineering, digital media, optics, and simulation. It also has strong business, education, and management programs too. UCF’s relationships with corporations such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Siemens, and its satellite campus at the Kennedy Space Center provide students with the enormous opportunity to connect and network with some of the most brilliant minds in science and business.
Outside the classroom, UCF students take part in one of the over 400 student organizations, recreation opportunities, intramural sports, the student government association, the athletic programs, and the campus access to the waterfront. There is also a vibrant fraternity and sorority life at UCF as well as an emphasis on student traditions and participation in community events.
The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. There are over a dozen satellite campuses and an online distance learning platform that make up UCF.
University of Florida
The University of Florida is, by far, the best ranked school on our list. It is nationally ranked as among the best fifty universities in the country by ARWU, U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, and Washington Monthly. It also receives global recognitions from QS World University Rankings and Times Higher Education. Finally, many of its individual academic departments are noted as being among the best both globally and nationally, including its programs in agricultural science, environmental/ecology, plant and animal science, pharmacology and toxicology, space science, health science, and chemistry.
The University of Florida main campus is in Gainesville and is comprised of dozens of historic sites, several libraries and museums, even more research centers and institutes, and its over twenty colleges and schools. Approximately 50,000 undergraduates and grad students attend the University of Florida and are in one of its hundreds of degree programs. Though, the most popular majors are by far, engineering, business, management, marketing, and those that fall under the social sciences and biological or biomedical sciences.
The University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Not only is it one of the cheapest schools in Florida and one of the best in the country, it is also one with the happiest student body: its freshman retention rate is over 96 percent, a clear indication of student satisfaction.
University of North Florida
The University of North Florida, located in Jacksonville, is a mid-sized public university and a member of the State University System of Florida. Consisting of five colleges—the College of Arts and Science, the College of Business, the College of Computing and Engineering, the College of Education, and the College of Health—UNF offers dozens of bachelors and masters degrees in a range of disciplines and fields. But perhaps the most prestigious and well-known major in all of the University of North Florida is its Jazz Studies program, offered through the department of music.
The Princeton Review has named the University of North Florida not just one of the “Best Value” colleges in the country, but as one of just the best in its region. Though UNF already offers a pretty competitive tuition rate, it also makes many merit-based scholarships available to its students, including its financial needs-based scholarship, its first generation scholarship, as well as its transfer, graduate, international, and study abroad scholarships.
Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the University of North Florida has a student body of about 17,000 undergraduates and grad students.