Saving money is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to getting a college degree, but by choosing one of these cheap colleges in Florida, you may be able to do just that.
Let’s be honest, numbers and rankings can be manipulated to mislead people. I could theoretically own a college that charges $500 per semester for students to attend. Sounds like a great deal and puts me near the top of some cost rankings, right? But did I mention the $2,500 in fees? That type of cost manipulation doesn’t seem honest or fair, so with this “Top 15 Cheapest Colleges” ranking, we ordered these colleges and universities by bottom-line cost. This includes school expenses such as housing, tuition, book expenses and fees.
The rankings below would change if you can avoid the expense of living in a dorm or if you choose to live off-campus. The total dollar cost you see below is for an entire year of attending the college or university and has been pulled directly from each school’s website to provide you with the most up-to-date information. No tricks, no gimmicks.
15. Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla.
Net Price:$22,856 per year
Located near downtown Boca Raton and with satellite facilities in Dania Beach, Davie, Fort Lauderdale, Jupiter and Fort Pierce, Florida Atlantic University boasts undergraduate enrollment of nearly 26,000 students and is continuing to grow. The university offers more than 180 graduate and undergraduate degree programs and is classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a research university. The admission requirements have become more stringent in recent years, which is an indication that the university administration is not simply seeking enrollment growth but is instead interested in the quality of student applicants. Average class size is 33 students and nearly 25 percent of classes have fewer than 20 students.
The university’s campus is home to The Center for Excellence in Biomedical and Marine Biotechnology and The Center for Ocean Energy Technology, which are two facilities that seek to design technology to harvest renewable energy and discover new medicine. Florida Atlantic University has also partnered with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to create a Research Partnership Center in the school’s College of Engineering and Computer Science. This collaboration allows university students and researchers to design and test governmental and commercial applications in medical technology, surveillance, manufacturing and video.
Florida Atlantic University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
14. Emmaus Baptist College in Brandon, Fla.
Net Price: $22,550 per year
Located on a 10-acre campus in Brandon, Emmaus Baptist College operates under the mission “to equip men and women for service to God.” The college offers students five areas of study in a wide variety of Biblically-based courses. Degree offerings include pastoral arts, Bible languages, theological studies, elementary education and youth ministry. Students receive personal attention from instructors in the small-class environment and are challenged spiritually and academically. Students are also offered the opportunity to get involved in actual ministry while attending college as there are several Missionary Baptist churches in the surrounding area.
Emmaus Baptist College is not regionally accredited but is a member of the American Baptist Association of Theological Schools.
13. Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, Fla.
Net Price: $21,940 per year
Located in suburban Lakeland, Florida Polytechnic University was established just a few years ago in 2012. The stated mission of the school is to prepare 21st century learners for careers in advanced fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The university had just 554 students in the inaugural Fall 2014 class, but it is expected to grow rapidly. Florida Polytechnic University currently offers six bachelor’s degree programs and two master’s degree programs focused on preparing students for STEM-related careers.
The university has established partnerships with STEM industry core companies such as Cisco, Microsoft and Lockheed Martin to guide curriculum development and offer internship opportunities. Being a new school has given Florida Polytechnic University the opportunity to innovate with normal university services and buildings. For instance, the main library is completely digital and the campus features a 160,000-square-foot Innovation, Science and Technology building that includes a 3-D printing lab and Supercomputer. Florida Polytechnic University has not yet been accredited by a regional agency due to the recent founding.
12. University of West Florida in Pensacola, Fla.
Net Price: $21,172 per year
Located about ten miles from Pensacola, the main campus of University of West Florida is the third-largest in the State University System and is bordered by two rivers and Escambia Bay. The university has a branch campus in Fort Walton Beach that it shares with Northwest Florida State College. The male to female ratio at the school is one of the largest on our list with 43 percent male and 57 percent female students within the 10,000+ student body.
The school is a considered to be a research university, and they’ve recently opened a new multimillion dollar science and engineering building in 2010. This state-of-the art building includes 3-D virtual reality simulators, a holographic deck, prototype robot fabrication and testing laboratories. The university offers an underwater archeology program that is unique because it has access to the sunken remains of a Spanish colonization ship that sank during a hurricane in 1559. Popular majors at University of West Florida include business administration and management, special education and teaching, health sciences and mass communication.
University of West Florida has a strong online presence with 28 fully-online undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs available. The university operates multiple facilities in partnership with the U.S. military and, as a result, a significant number of University of West Florida students are military personnel and commissioned officers. University of West Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
11. University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Fla.
Net Price: $21,052 per year
Located near Jacksonville, University of North Florida has nearly 15,000 students and sits a mere 15 miles from the Atlantic Ocean. It is also surrounded by a nature preserve. The university offers 53 undergraduate degree programs and 28 graduate degree programs. Notable majors offered at University of North Florida include nursing, business, coastal biology, nutrition and music. The school has high academic standards for admission; in Fall 2013, the University of North Florida acceptance rate was just 44% of applicants, and the average SAT score of incoming freshmen was 1215.
The university campus and surrounding areas feature miles of nature trails and numerous lakes and ponds. A state-protected wildlife and bird sanctuary is located near campus, and the Social Science building is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified. Additional campus buildings have pending LEED certification requests outstanding. University of North Florida operates the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville, which allows the university to offer credit-bearing art classes to students. On the social front, Osprey Productions is the schools entertainment agency that puts on free events for students such as concerts, movies, games and open mic nights. University of North Florida is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
10. Johnson University Florida in Kissimmee, Fla.
Net Price: $20,852 per year
Located in suburban Kissimmee, about 15 miles south of Orlando, Johnson University Florida is a nondenominational university, affiliated with the Independent Christian Church. The university faculty and administration is focused on preparing students for leadership roles in business, nonprofit and ministry settings. The college offers six undergraduate programs: a one-year certificate program, a 2-year Associate of Arts and Associate of Applied Science, four-year Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science programs and a five-year Bachelor of Theology program.
Approximately 400 students attend Johnson University Florida and all students are required to double major in Bible and ministry, along with their chosen major. The university maintains an average 12:1 student-to-professor ratio to provide students with a personalized educational experience. Johnson University Florida is nationally accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education and the Commission for Independent Education with the Florida Board of Education.
9. University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla.
Net Price: $20,910 per year
Located in downtown Tampa, University of South Florida is a research institution with regional campuses in St. Petersburg and Sarasota. The school’s research background is evidenced by the school’s 10th place ranking among all universities worldwide in the number of U.S. patents granted. The student body is around 41,000 students with approximately 5 percent being international students from more than 130 different countries. The student-to-faculty ratio at University of South Florida is 24:1. The demographics of the student population consist of 60 percent white, 17 percent Hispanic, 11 percent African-American, and 7 percent Asian/Pacific Islander students.
The university offers more than 80 undergraduate majors and 130 graduate, specialist and doctoral degree programs. Among the most popular of these majors are finance, psychology, criminology and medical microbiology and bacteriology. Courses are offered year-round with the summer semester broken down into three overlapping sessions of six-week or ten-week courses. University of South Florida has consistently ranked among the top veteran-friendly universities in the country. USF is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
8. University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla.
Net Price: $20,590 per year
Located near downtown Gainesville, University of Florida was ranked #48 by U.S. News and World Report in their 2015 edition of “Best Colleges”. With nearly 50,000 students, the school is the eighth largest in the US and the third largest in Florida. The university doesn’t accept just anyone who completes an application; the 2015 freshman class acceptance rate was just over 44 percent. Despite its size, University of Florida maintains a student-to-faculty ratio of 21:1 and has an average freshman retention rate of 95.8 percent.
University of Florida is an elected member of the Association of American Universities, which recognizes the school as a preeminent research university. The university offers students a separate honors program with over 100 courses offered exclusively to students in the program. Invitation criteria to this program includes a weighted GPA of at least 4.0 and an SAT score of 2070 out of 2400 or an ACT score of 33. The benefits of acceptance to the honors program include separate residential housing and special scholarships, internships and research.
From a social perspective, the university ranked 6th in the Princeton Review’s 2014 list of top party schools. It was also named the top vegan-friendly school in 2014 by PETA. The university athletic teams, commonly known as the “Florida Gators”, compete in the NCAA Division I and have won multiple championship titles in recent years. The most popular majors at University of Florida include business, marketing, engineering, communication and biological/biomedical sciences. University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
7. New College of Florida in Sarasota, Fla.
Net Price: $20,519 per year
Located in Sarasota, this public liberal arts institution and independent honors college has a total enrollment of around 800 students. Liberal arts and sciences and general studies and humanities are two of the most popular majors offered at New College of Florida. Four core principles form the base of New College’s academic philosophy: (1) each student is responsible in the last analysis for his or her own education, (2) the best education demands a joint search for learning by exciting teachers and able students, (3) students’ progress should be based on demonstrated competence and real mastery rather than on the accumulation of credits and grades, and (4) students should have, from the outset, opportunities to explore in-depth, areas of interest to them. Letter grades and grade-point-averages are not used at New College of Florida. This doesn’t preclude grad school attendance, however.
The intellectual intensity of New College of Florida allowed for an 87 percent acceptance rate by grad schools of New College graduates from 2004-2008. The college is consistently ranked among the top five for “Gay Friendliest Universities”, according to the Princeton Review. New College of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
6. Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Fla.
Net Price: $20,342 per year
Located in suburban Fort Myers, Florida Gulf Coast University is a relative newcomer to the ranks of Florida universities by virtue of being established in 1991 and first offering classes in 1997. The student acceptance rate at the school is just under 66 percent, and applicants must have a minimum SAT score of 1450 or a minimum ACT score of 21. Each admitted freshman is expected to demonstrate competency of a foreign language or the equivalent in American Sign Language.
The school prides itself on having a tech-friendly campus with over 40 Wifi hotspots while focusing on the environmental sustainability of the campus. The university has a solar field to supply power and an ice thermal storage plant to cool campus buildings in the summer. A number of lakes have been constructed on the campus to promote the ecology of the area. The newest residence halls heat their water using rooftop solar panels. Marketing, journalism, communication and business management are among the 51 different types of bachelor’s degrees offered by Florida Gulf Coast University. With an estimated undergraduate enrollment of nearly 13,000 students, Florida Gulf Coast University is a good blend of small school intimacy and large school anonymity. FGCU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
5. Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Fla.
Net Price: $19,852 per year
Located in Graceville, this rural private college was originally focused on training Baptist ministers. Today, Baptist College of Florida has a total enrollment of just over 500 students and offers secular degrees in such popular majors as music, business, counseling and elementary education. Single students who are under 21 years of age and not commuting from home must live in an on-campus residence hall for the first four semesters of attendance. An excerpt from the college mission statement says, “. . . the college seeks to develop those qualities in students that contribute to effective ministry. In the area of personal growth, we seek to foster a desire for knowledge; develop cultural awareness by introducing students to a wide range of knowledge; nurture the ability to acquire, evaluate, assimilate and use information; and promote personal and social maturity.”
The student-to-faculty ratio is 14:1 and nearly 90 percent of classes have fewer than 20 students. The gender distribution is the opposite of the schools we’ve reviewed so far; 63 percent of the school is made up of male students and 37 percent is female students. Baptist College of Florida is accredited with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
4. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, Fla.
Net Price: $19,805 per year
Better known as Florida A&M University or FAMU, the main university campus is in Tallahassee with a law school campus in Orlando. Total undergraduate enrollment is just under 9,000 students. Another historically black university, Florida A&M accepts students of all races and nationalities and is a member-school of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Ninety percent of enrolled students are African American with the next largest demographic being white students at 5 percent of the total population.
First-year students and students with fewer than 12 credit hours are required to live on campus if their families are more than 35 miles away. Despite its name, Florida A&M University offers degrees outside the agricultural and mechanical realms; the school has 62 Bachelor’s degrees in 103 majors/tracks. The most popular majors include marketing, psychology and journalism. The student-to-faculty ratio is 17:1 and the gender distribution is 39 percent male and 61 percent female. Nearly one-third of the classes have fewer than 20 students. The FAMU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences has graduated over 50 percent of the African American PhDs in pharmaceutical sciences since 1990 and consistently ranks as one of the top-funded pharmacy schools in the United States. Florida A&M is accredited with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
3. Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Fla.
Net Price: $19,607 per year
Located in downtown Jacksonville, this regionally-accredited, private institution is a historically black college that was founded in 1866 to educate newly-freed slaves. This private, not-for-profit institution has just under 800 students. Edward Waters College won’t accept just anyone to boost enrollment; the acceptance rate is 23 percent.
The college offers students bachelor’s degrees in eight academic programs including communications, music, psychology, criminal justice, biology, elementary education, mathematics and business administration. Class size is generally 15-20 students, which allows for increased student-instructor interaction. The oldest building on campus, Centennial Hall, contains the Obi-Scott-Umunna Collection of African Art and is part of the National Register of Historic Places. Edward Waters College is accredited with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
2. Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla.
Net Price: $19,548 per year
Located in downtown Tallahassee, Florida State University was ranked No. 95 by U.S. News and World Report in their 2015 “Best Colleges” ranking. The university boasts attendance of over 32,000 students, but it can be selective with applicants; just over 56 percent of applicants were accepted for the 2014-2015 academic year. The most popular majors at FSU include finance, international relations, English language and literature, psychology and criminal justice. The gender distribution is 45 percent male students and 55 percent female students.
Florida State University features the state’s National Laboratory – the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. The university also operates the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art and the State Art Museum of Florida. Funding for STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is plentiful as the university leads Florida in four of eight areas of external funding. The university sports teams, nicknamed the Florida Seminoles, have been well represented on the national stage, having won thirteen national team championships and multiple individual championship awards. Florida State University is accredited with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
1. University of Central Florida in Orlando, Fla.
Net Price: $16,814 per year
Located in Orlando and with twelve satellite campuses throughout Central Florida, the University of Central Florida is the second largest university in the United States. It offers 211 degree programs and is an academic leader in fields such as optics, modeling and simulation, engineering and computer science, business administration, and education. The most popular majors at the University of Central Florida include marketing, psychology, education, engineering and business. With nearly 60,000 students and occupying 1,415 acres, the University of Central Florida is the largest university in the United States by undergraduate enrollment and is the second largest university based on total enrollment.
The sheer size of the university, combined with over 230,000 alumni worldwide, allows University of Central Florida to provide students with a rich education combined with virtually unlimited social and networking opportunities. Newsweek has ranked the main campus as among the 20 most beautiful campuses in the country. The seventh largest research park in the nation, Central Florida Research Park, is located directly south of the main campus and provides jobs to thousands of university graduates at over 116 corporations. The University of Central Florida is accredited with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.