2018 Guide to Online Colleges and Universities in Florida

Florida gets its name from the Spanish word “florida,” or “feast of flowers.” The state has an area of 65,758 square miles, and is the 22nd largest in the country. Many flock to Florida for its beaches and year-round warm temps — the average annual temperature is 66 degrees!
Florida has the third-largest population in the United States. With 68 counties, Florida has 20,612,439 residents. Approximately 37% of those living in Florida are less than 30 years old. Additionally, it has one of the most diverse populations in the country. An estimated 42% of the state’s population identifies itself as belonging to a racial or ethnic minority group.

Although Florida’s capital city is Tallahassee, the largest city in the state is Jacksonville, with a population of 913,010. Other big cities in Florida are Miami, Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Orlando.

Florida residents typically have a higher than average level of education as compared to those around the country. According to the 2010 Census, an estimated 20.8% of the state’s residents over the age of 25 have graduated from high school, 4.6% have at least an associate degree, 3.2% have degrees at the bachelor’s level or higher, and 1% hold a graduate level degree.

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Florida’s Online Education Profile

Sixty-four post-secondary institutions in Florida offer online programs. Of these accredited online colleges, 14 are public four-year colleges or universities, five are public community or technical colleges, and 45 are private colleges, universities, or career and vocational schools. The degrees offered at these schools include 1,117 online certificate programs, 6,152 online associate programs, 7,548 online bachelor’s programs, 3,974 online master’s programs, 5,026 online professional programs, and 1,052 online doctoral programs. Of the online colleges in Florida, the University of Florida, a four-year research university, offers the most online courses with 102 programs from which to choose. With so many options, students are sure to find the right program for them by attending the University of Florida online or one of the many other online colleges in Florida.

For students interested in attending a Florida online school, FloridaShines is a great resource. Part of the Florida Virtual Campus, FloridaShines is an online support center for distance learners. Florida residents can also enroll in a variety of out-of-state online programs while still paying in-state tuition through the Academic Common Market Electronic Campus Program.

Number/Percentage Florida National Average
Number of Title IV 4-year colleges 144 56
Number of Title IV 2-year colleges 79 33
Percentage of students enrolled in distance education 33.8% 25.8%
Postsecondary education spending per full-time student $5,693 $6,954
Percentage of adults over 25 with associate degree 8.1% 8.1%
Percentage of adults over 25 with bachelor’s degree 18.5% 18.5%
Percentage of adults over 25 with graduate degree or higher 11.2% 11.2%

Sources: NCES, SHEEO, U.S. Census Bureau – American Community Survey

Average Cost of College Tuition & Fees in Florida

Number/Percentage Florida National Average
Average in-state tuition & fees – public 4-year $4,438 $8,778
Average in-state tuition & fees – private 4-year $22,793 $27,951
Average in-state tuition & fees – public 2-year $2,387 $3,038

Source: NCES

Best Online Colleges in Florida

Students in the Sunshine State have the opportunity to attend classes at University of Florida online or one of the many colleges in Florida. Imagine earning your degree from the beach!

For more than 20 years, Florida has been a leader in the online education movement. Creating FloridaShines (formerly the state Distance Learning Consortium) in 1996, the state has long prioritized distance-learning initiatives. And students are prioritizing online learning, too; from 2012 to 2015, Florida State University saw a nearly 80% increase in online enrollment.

Interested in online learning? Here are some of the top online colleges in Florida.


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Florida’s Higher Education Outlook

Florida is made up of a variety of post-secondary institutions. There are 12 universities that make up the state University System of Florida. This system includes 300,000 enrolled students, 60,000 faculty and staff, and a statewide operating budget of $8.5 billion every year. Additionally, the state College system is made up of 28 public community at Florida colleges. The University of Central Florida is one of the largest universities by enrollment in the state, with more than 52,286 students.

Last year, in 2016, Florida became the state with the second lowest four-year tuition, which is $26,000 for in-Florida students and $86,000 for those from out-of-Florida. Nationally, the average is $36,000 for in-Florida students.

There are 1,207,817 students enrolled in higher education programs across Florida. This includes traditional programs and online schools in Florida, and both undergraduate and graduate students. In 2014, it was reported that Florida has a 75% retention rate, a 64.4% graduation rate, and a funding per full-time student amount of $5,798.

Of all Florida’s high school graduates, 65% go on to pursue a post-secondary degree at a state school. And these students are making a wise decision — a recent study released by U.S. News and World Report found that Florida is the number one Florida in the country for higher education.

Higher Education Initiatives in Florida

Florida’s public universities are governed by the Florida Board of Governors, who regulate and manage the public schools in the state. For non-public schools, there is the Commission for Independent Education, which oversees institutional policies and independent school licensing.

Florida Governor Rick Scott recently announced his “Finish in Four, Save More” plan to encourage students to complete their college degree in four years, whether opting for University of Florida online or another program. This legislation includes plans to freeze college fees and freeze college tuition. It also calls for an expansion of the state’s “Bright Futures” program, allowing it to support the opportunity for students to take college courses in the summer and speed up their time in school. Lastly, Governor Scott wants to remove taxes on college textbooks.

“Florida students should have every opportunity to earn a degree in four years without graduating with mountains of debt,” Governor Scott said. “While we have fought to make higher education more affordable by holding the line on undergraduate tuition, there is much more that can be done to help students.”

Resources for Florida

College Savings Plans

For those trying to invest and save money for their future post-secondary endeavors, college savings plans are the way to go. College savings plans are sponsored by state agencies as a way for individuals and families to set aside money to be saved for future educational costs. These funds are exempt from federal taxes. It gets its “529” moniker from the section of the Internal Revenue Code for which it was named. Those who create the plan can select from a variety of investment options, much like a 401(k) or IRA. Once a savings plan account is created, the funds can be used for college tuition, books, or a variety of other education-related expenses. Most accredited colleges accept 529 plans.

the state 529 Savings Plan covers qualified educational expenses like tuition, technology fees, and housing. Those who have savings in the plan can used the accrued amount at colleges across the country, and the amount saved is exempt from federal taxes. Investors, however, can not get a tax deduction or tax credit for their contributions. The initial contribution to open the plan must be at least $250, and there is an additional .0075% of the account balance annual fee.

Educational Nonprofit Organizations in Florida

In addition to the many state-run programs and resources available for higher education and online schools in Florida, there are also many nonprofit organizations with missions of assisting those interested in obtaining a post-secondary degree both at a traditional institution or through one of the many Florida online colleges.

  • Florida College Access: Florida College Access works to enhance the state’s initiatives to improve college and career preparation and access for every student in the state. The organization has a goal of reaching the 60% threshold of working-age Florida residents to hold a college degree or certification.
  • United Way of Florida: With locations all over the state, the United Way focuses on education as a way to pull communities and individuals out of poverty. They work on decreasing the dropout rate and ensuring students make it on to college.
  • Helios Foundation: The Helios Foundation believes that every Florida student should be able and have the opportunity to attend and succeed in college. They promote a culture that places importance on going to college and they work with students to make sure they are prepared for post-secondary studies. A main focus of the Helios Foundation is on low-income, first-generation, and minority students.

Accrediting Bodies in Florida

To earn credibility and enhance their reputation as an educational leader, schools must seek accreditation. Accredited schools have been certified and meet the standards of the governing agency. Depending on what type of school it is, the college is expected to meet a certain set of standards by the regional or national accreditation agency to which it is applying. Schools must demonstrate a solid foundation and mission of educating its students, and must show that they have the resources to continue this work longterm. Accreditation requires frequent reviews and checks to ensure they maintain these standards.

Some colleges have received regional accreditation, while some have been nationally accredited. Most regionally accredited colleges (98%) are nonprofit and degree-granting. Typically, nationally accredited schools are for-profit schools, often with a religious affiliation. Both types require quality outputs from the colleges, can be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, and can accept financial aid.

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) is the regional accrediting agency for southern states, including Florida. Accreditation standards for the body include an extensive review of the school’s’ institutional mission, its governance, effectiveness, and even financial resources.

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Job Outlook for Florida

By the year 2024, job growth in Florida is expected to increase by 11.4%, adding approximately 1,045,693 jobs. Additionally, the fastest growing industries in Florida will be ambulatory health care services, educational services, and speciality trade contractors. These three industries alone will amount to more than 200,000 additional jobs statewide. Florida’s statewide payroll is also expected to grow by 2.4% in 2017, which is an indicator of strong economic growth.

Graduates from either a traditional college or one of the many online colleges in Florida can expect a positive climate to get a job once they are finished with school.

Top Industries in Florida

Industry Description
Tourism 97 million tourists traveled to Florida in 2014 alone. More than 1.1 million Florida residents have a job related to the tourism industry. This makes sense, as Florida has many beaches, is a port for cruise ships, and of course, is home to Walt Disney World.
Agriculture Agriculture employs nearly 2 million people in Florida, and contributes over $104 billion to the state’s annual economy. With an extended growing season due to Florida’s warm climate, agriculture is big business in the state.
International Trade Florida is a major player in international trade, as it is a gateway to many different countries and regions such as Latin America and the Caribbean. There are nearly 1 million trade jobs in Florida.

Top Employers in Florida

Top Employers Number of Employees
Walt Disney World 56,800
Miami-Dade County Public Schools 54,300
Miami-Dade County Government 32,200

Florida by the Numbers

Per capita income:

  • State: $27,697
  • US average: $29,979

Median household income:

  • State: $49,426
  • US average: $55,775

Gross Domestic Product:

  • State: $926,817
  • US: $18.57 trillion