Online Schools & Colleges
in Florida

Resources, Tips and Choosing the Right School for You

With more than 150 online programs, Florida has been at the forefront of online education since 1996, when it launched the Florida Community College Distance Learning Consortium. The Consortium allowed public and private colleges to collaborate and facilitate online learning in the state. In 1999, the Florida Virtual Campus was created to provide quality online resources for high school and college students alike. This pedigree has led to a wide range of online learning opportunities for Florida students; the key now is figuring out how to find the right one. The following guide walks students through the process of identifying and funding a degree program at one of the Florida’s best online colleges and universities. Read on to learn more.

Best Online Colleges in Florida

2-Year Colleges

Choosing the right online college in Florida depends on the unique needs of each student. For some, affordability trumps everything, with low-cost tuition the driving factor in their decision. For others, it’s accreditation, which can mean the quality they need to graduate and transition into a top career with a trusted employer. But which schools have the right combinations of cost, quality, resources and convenience to attract and help the most students across the state? Let’s see which accredited online colleges in Florida made the list of the top in 2018.

Rank University Title Tuition # of Online Programs Expand Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Description
Hillsborough Community College $1,931 7 30% 16% Yes Yes Yes
Florida Keys Community College $2,483 1 30% 23% Yes No Yes
Rank University Title Tuition # of Online Programs Expand Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Description
1 University of Central Florida $4,478 43 50% 73% 43% Yes Yes Yes

The University of Central Florida not only offers an array of programs, but it has a strong focus on academic support though its Online Connect Center, where coaches are available to students throughout their programs to help strategize for success and identify resources, from anywhere in the world. An undergraduate student could complete an entire 4-year bachelor's degree online in one of 20 majors, including English, history, international and global studies and even nursing. UCF offers more than two dozen master's degrees, in subjects such as educational leadership, forensic science, hospitality and tourism management and emergency and crisis management; as well as doctoral degrees in nursing and many graduate certificates. The master's 30+ credit-hour requirement can be completed within 2 to 4 years, usually. Among UCF's standout offerings is its wide array of specialized online health care degree programs, which include certificates, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees and doctoral degrees, and cover such subjects as nonprofit management, autism spectrum disorders, research administration, nursing and Executive Master of Health Administration, where students will study emerging techniques, innovative models and advanced technology that are focused on prevention helping them advance in health care.

2 University of Florida $4,477 56 46% 88% 29% No Yes Yes

The University of Florida boasts that it provides "the same great programs and elite faculty" that it offers on its main campus but without brick-and-mortar boundaries. Online programs geared toward nontraditional students with busy lives or families can benefit from more than 100 online programs for completing 4-year degrees. Alumni testimonials of UF's online programs highlight its "online education, real world connection" component, with stated benefits including an online lecture component, which enhances a feeling of connectedness to the community, as well as the career advancement afforded by an online degree. UF strives to provide flexibility and highly customized experiences to students, through a combination of 19 undergraduate majors for upper level students with at least 60 transfer credits, in subjects such as communications, biology, geography and fire & emergency services, as well as 7 undergraduate minors. The majority of UF's online offerings include more than 80 master's degrees, which vary from urban and regional planning to student personnel in higher education, pharmaceutical sciences, environmental engineering sciences and aerospace. Each program has different requirements, but students can usually complete their degrees with 30-36 credits in 2-4 years. The majority of courses are asynchronous, so they can be completed at times that are convenient for students, and students are assigned academic advisers who work closely with them throughout their programs to provide guidance on course loads, challenges and more.

3 University of South Florida-Main Campus $4,559 24 47% 71% 69% No Yes Yes

Southern Florida University's "Innovative Education" program sees flexibility through online learning as essential for busy students. The online course offerings reflect the large student network of more than 50,000 students on and off campus. In addition to its hundreds of online courses, USF offers fully and partially online undergraduate degrees and fully online graduate degrees. Students approaching junior year completion of courses who want to study nursing, information studies, public health or criminology have 7 bachelor's degrees to choose from to complete their degrees. The graduate studies offerings are vast and wide-ranging. Students can choose from more than 30 degrees in the following fields of study: arts, education, public health, global sustainability, medicine, pharmacy, engineering, behavioral and community services and even an interdisciplinary degree in cybersecurity. Graduate completion requires between 36 and 39 credit hours. Some programs boast that students can complete in as few as five semesters, but the advantage of online programs is that students can progress at their own pace.

4 Florida State University $4,640 14 58% 80% 44% No Yes Yes

Florida State University is recognized as a "Preeminent University" by the state of Florida which acknowledges its exceptional student retention and graduation and continues to invest in student-centered experiences and inspiring "academically motivated, intellectually curious, and socially conscious" students. The online program offerings through Distance@FSU are vast and reflect the "preeminent" nature of the institution. Undergraduates who have achieved 60 credits or more can transfer these credits and complete online degrees in public safety and security, computer science, criminology, and social science. Graduate students have even more online program offerings from master's degrees in law enforcement intelligence, business administration and educational leadership to a doctoral degree in educational leadership and policy. Non-degree-seeking students can also choose from more than 20 certificate programs, including event management and emergency management, as well as a homeland security graduate certificate. Degree-seeking graduate students may complete between 32 and 39 credit hours or more, depending on the program. Most courses are asynchronous, which is an advantage for busy students, but there are also synchronous and mixed courses that would require face-to-face instruction on occasion. Master's programs can take between 2 and 4 years, depending on the student's pace.

5 Florida International University $4,721 33 50% 60% 44% No Yes Yes

Florida International University is a top-tier research institution based in Miami that emphasizes research as a major component of its mission. When it comes to online learning, FIU is committed to student completion, with several of its online degrees structured in a way that makes it possible to finish in as little as one year. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the university strives for a "high-tech, high-touch" student experience that is both interactive and challenging, with online classes paralleling the academic rigor found in on-campus courses and programs. FIU offers 40 fully online bachelor's degrees in a large range of subjects, from humanities to hospitality management to high-tech specialties such as computer engineering and the internet of things. More than 30 graduate degrees round out FIU's online degree offerings, in such wide-ranging topics as African and African diaspora studies, engineering management, global affairs with an international crime and justice track, health care, hospitality management, education and real estate. A number of online minors are also available. Finally, the university offers two online combination bachelor's and master's degrees that take a total of 5 years: a recreation and sport management BS/MS, and a hospitality management BS/MS.

6 Altierus Career College $12,729 6 - 75% 3% Yes Yes Yes

Formerly known as Everest University, Altierus Career College is a non-profit institution with 3 campuses open for enrollment in Tampa, Florida; Norcross, Georgia; and Houston. With a focus on short-term career training, Altierus offers several diploma programs in a variety of fields. Students can train to be a medical technician, dental assistant or electrical technician; additional tracks are offered in massage therapy, computer information technology and HVAC. Most programs are offered fully on campus; however, 2 are designed in a hybrid format: medical billing and coding, and pharmacy technician. For these hybrid programs, students are expected to attend classes 3 days per week on campus, and supplement their learning with additional coursework online. Both programs are structured to be completed in 8 months. Altierus is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, a national organization. Any testing or certification requirements necessary to practice professionally are also built into the curriculum.

7 Florida Atlantic University $2,522 16 60% 52% 38% No Yes Yes

From its first days as a public state university started in 1964, Florida Atlantic University was intended to push education to new frontiers. In fact, it describes itself as "the first Information Age university," with an early goal of using broadcast technology to transmit classes to students, no matter where they were. Today, FAU still maintains a focus on meeting students' needs by offering online programs that can be completed from anywhere, at any time. Online classes are designed to mirror those offered on campus, and many of its distance-learning courses are certified by Quality Matters, a third-party quality assurance organization. The university, as a whole, is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. FAU offers 7 undergraduate degree programs; these include bachelor's degrees in business administration, criminal justice and public safety administration, as well as a certificate program in geographic information systems (GIS) and an RN-to-BSN program. Additionally, its online graduate programs include an MBA, as well as master's degrees and graduate certificates in education, engineering, computer science, nursing and GIS. A large number of online minors are available as well.

8 Saint Leo University $20,760 45 70% 43% 100% Yes Yes Yes

Saint Leo University is a nonprofit, liberal arts university founded in 1889 as a Catholic university, although it serves students of all faiths. Student experiences are heavily focused on adult learners, and online programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels are designed with career training in mind. Coursework emphasizes real-world applications, constructive feedback and acknowledgment of adult learners' prior experience. Courses are taught by faculty with advanced degrees who are professionals in their fields, and the university is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Saint Leo's online program offerings include 5 associate degrees, 20 bachelor degrees, 37 master/professional degrees and 4 doctoral degrees, as well as 6 minors that may be completed entirely online. Bachelor's degrees feature numerous career specializations, including business administration degrees with such emphases as logistics, marketing or project management; criminal justice degrees that focus on criminalistics or homeland security; and a sociology degree specializing in diversity and inequality. Similarly, Saint Leo's master's degree programs include numerous MBAs in such specialties as cybersecurity management, health care management or marketing; master of education degrees in exceptional student education or reading; and master of criminal justice programs emphasizing such areas as critical incident management or forensic science.

9 University of North Florida $3,853 4 65% 59% 46% No Yes Yes

Based in Jacksonville, the University of North Florida reaches students from all over by offering several fully online degree and certificate programs, as well as hundreds of individual courses delivered via distance learning. To facilitate students' on-time graduation, a number of these courses and programs are offered on an accelerated 8-week schedule. As part of the school's goal to ensure high levels of student learning, interaction and engagement, UNF's 11 fully online programs are intended only for upper-level graduate or professional students and include an RN-to-BSN nursing degree; master's degrees in nutrition, criminal justice, educational leadership and American Sign Language (ASL); doctoral degrees in nutrition and nursing; and graduate certificates in healthcare informatics, early childhood education and TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages). The majority of programs allow students to complete their studies entirely off campus, but some do require occasional on-campus participation. UNF is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and online classes are headed by the same faculty that teach in-person classes.

10 Nova Southeastern University $27,986 46 53% 48% 100% Yes Yes Yes

Founded in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 1964, Nova Southeastern University began as an innovative graduate institution in the physical and social sciences. It has since added undergraduate and distance education programs to its offerings. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the school is noted for its innovation in research, and faculty are professionals actively engaged in their fields. NSU offers fully online undergraduate degrees in health science, human services administration, nursing (RN-to-MSN), psychology, recreational therapy, respiratory therapy and speech, language and communication disorders. There are also nearly 60 graduate and professional degree programs available entirely online, in a multitude of subjects including accounting, business administration, education, health sciences, information technology and nursing. Online students may also enjoy NSU's emphasis on experiential learning, during which students may conduct research alongside a faculty mentor or earn credit by working or volunteering in the community.

11 The University of West Florida $3,735 22 41% 55% 64% No Yes Yes
12 Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University $3,152 3 31% 46% 55% Yes Yes Yes
13 Palm Beach Atlantic University $28,100 3 93% 56% 100% Yes Yes Yes
14 Florida Gulf Coast University $4,191 7 56% 52% 24% No Yes Yes
15 Florida Southern College $32,450 5 46% 65% 99% No Yes Yes
16 Adventist University of Health Sciences $12,900 4 76% 57% 22% No No Yes
17 Southeastern University $23,160 21 46% 44% 75% Yes Yes Yes
18 Barry University $28,800 9 62% 37% 95% Yes Yes Yes
19 Keiser University $17,488 34 - 42% 58% Yes Yes Yes
20 Stetson University $42,890 3 66% 62% 100% No Yes Yes
21 The Baptist College of Florida $9,900 17 59% 49% 56% No No Yes
22 Hobe Sound Bible College $5,600 9 - 67% 86% No No No
23 Everglades University $15,600 17 74% 52% 40% No Yes Yes
24 University of Miami $45,600 4 38% 82% 74% No Yes Yes
25 Johnson University Florida $13,200 4 62% 38% 76% Yes No Yes
26 Jacksonville University $33,930 5 49% 41% 97% Yes Yes Yes
27 St Thomas University $28,800 12 54% 33% 94% Yes Yes Yes
28 Bethune-Cookman University $13,440 3 - 51% 40% No Yes Yes
29 Florida Institute of Technology $39,696 18 61% 56% 97% No Yes Yes
30 Broward College $1,944 6 - - 12% Yes Yes Yes
31 Miami Dade College $1,983 7 - - 23% Yes Yes Yes
32 Lynn University $34,400 12 82% 43% 86% Yes Yes Yes
33 St Petersburg College $2,428 14 - - 21% Yes Yes Yes
34 State College of Florida-Manatee-Sarasota $2,365 9 - - 12% Yes Yes Yes
35 Warner University $20,112 9 44% 36% 96% Yes No Yes
36 Polk State College $2,483 4 - - 8% Yes Yes Yes
37 Hodges University $13,200 27 60% 25% 20% No Yes Yes
38 Florida SouthWestern State College $2,436 5 - - 12% Yes Yes Yes
39 Daytona State College $3,071 5 - - 15% Yes Yes Yes
40 Webber International University $22,770 20 50% 28% 97% No Yes Yes
41 Seminole State College of Florida $2,393 4 - - 16% No Yes Yes
42 Indian River State College $2,496 6 - - 13% No Yes Yes
43 Remington College $14,811 3 - - - No Yes Yes
44 University of Fort Lauderdale $7,200 6 - - - No Yes Yes
45 Trinity College of Florida $14,850 3 71% 22% 88% Yes No Yes

How can I find which online colleges offer the degree I’m looking for in Florida?

FloridaShines’ Virtual Campus, provided by the Florida State University System and the Florida College System, let you search by degree type, degree level and location. You can even search their full directory via keyword or phrase, a feature to help you find a specific program or programs quickly.

Which online schools in Florida will accept my transfer credits or work/life experience?

Florida’s 2+2 system allows students who have completed an associate degree at a Florida college to easily transfer their credits toward a bachelor’s degree to any other college in Florida. Students can check their eligibility for four-year programs at this page on FloridaShines. In general, many Florida colleges accept transfer credits from any college or university that is regionally accredited, but it’s still important to double check with each college before assuming transfer is guaranteed.

Students without official college credits who have comparable work or life experience may translate said experience into credits. Complete Florida offers a number of great tools—including prior learning assessments, alternative credit projects and competency-based education—to help your work/life experience and certificates/credentials work toward a degree.

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How Much More Do College Grads in Florida Make?

Florida is enjoying an incredible job growth period, so any investment in your education can only benefit your future earnings. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates a positive correlation between annual salary and level of education:

Mean annual salary for all occupations in Florida by minimum degree level required:

No Formal
High School
$30,426 $40,135 $54,043 $72,811 $71,202 $118,194

In Florida, a bachelor’s degree makes a difference. Compared to those with just a high school diploma, jobs requiring a minimum of a bachelor’s degree pay an estimated $32,000 more per year, and $42,000 more annually than jobs requiring no diploma at all. And professionals working in doctorate-level positions earn nearly $50,000 more per year than those working in bachelor’s-level careers.

College and Career Trends in Florida

Florida’s economy has experienced steady growth in 2018. In addition to a 0.3% drop in unemployment, many of the state’s primary industries have increased their labor forces year over year, including: construction (6.8 percent), hospitality (3.9 percent), manufacturing (3.7 percent) and finance (3.0 percent). According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the ten occupations with the highest forecasted growth rate from 2017 to 2025 include:

  1. Nurse practitioner: 34.69 percent
  2. Physician assistants: 33.4 percent
  3. Physical therapist assistants: 31.48 percent
  4. Home health aides: 30.77 percent
  5. Operations research analysts: 26.14 percent
  6. Diagnostic medical sonographers: 25.90 percent
  7. Web developers: 25.59 percent
  8. Physical therapists: 25.43 percent
  9. Brickmasons and blockmasons: 24.84 percent
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The Impact of Accreditation for Online Colleges and Universities in Florida

Florida leads in online learning—according to a 2014 report by the U.S. Department of Education, 16.1 percent of Florida university students were enrolled in an online program in 2012. An estimated 82.2 percent of them were undergraduates. The continued growth of online learning in the state is great for students, but it also puts more pressure on them to find quality programs. In this case, accreditation is everything. Not only does it signal academic excellence, but it can be a requirement to qualify for federal financial aid and to secure a job after graduation. But which accreditation levels are most important?

Regional Accreditation and Florida Colleges

Regional accreditation is the premier stamp of approval for U.S. colleges and universities. Higher education institutions in the state of Florida fall under purview of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (SACS). If you’re vetting campus or online colleges in Florida, make sure your shortlist candidates have SACS accreditation.

Specialized Accreditation Levels

In addition, programs within schools may be accredited by subject-specific bodies such as the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs or the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. While not usually a requirement, some employers may look for this specialized accreditation specifically. For example, many employers of psychologists may actively seek candidates who graduated from a program with American Psychological Association (APA) accreditation.

Paying for Online College in Florida: Tuition & Financial Aid

Every prospective student worries about tuition. And while the price tag may seem high, Florida has one of the top job growth rates in the nation according to the Florida Chamber of Commerce—faster than states like California and Texas. And landing one of these fast-growing jobs often requires a college degree. Let’s see how in-state tuition at Florida colleges breaks down:

In-State Tuition, Public Colleges & Universities: $4,438

Change from 2015 – $18

National Average:$8,778

In-State Tuition, Private Colleges & Universities: $22,793

Change from 2015 + $1,215

National Average:$27,951

Figures are for in-state tuition and required fees only. Room, board and other fees not factored.

What are Florida’s requirements to qualify for in-state university tuition?

To qualify for residency in Florida, first a student must prove they are a U.S. citizen, a permanent resident alien or a legal alien. Second, they need to provide documentation showing they have lived in the state of Florida for the 12 months prior to the academic period for which they plan to enroll. Examples of residency proof include a driver’s license, a voter registration card or a vehicle registration. For more information on the residency process, visit Hillsborough Community College’s guide to qualifying for in-state tuition in Florida.

Some students may be exempt from the residency process, including active-duty military members stationed in Florida, students that use Florida Pre-Paid and homeless students. For a list of students who fall under residency exemptions, see Sections 2.0 and 4.0 of the state’s guidelines regarding residency for tuition purposes. Florida also participates in the Southern Regional Education Board’s program known as the Academic Common Market. This network of colleges offer “tuition reciprocity.” This means that no matter where you live, if you’re enrolled in one of 1,900 qualifying programs, you’ll pay in-state tuition.

Are online credits more affordable in Florida than other places?

Each school and each state will have its own unique tuition standards, though online students may save money by avoiding parking and residential fees. The average standard tuition rate in Florida was $4,438 in 2016, placing the state well below the national average.

Here’s how a few online universities in Florida stack up against schools in neighboring states when it comes to the cost of online credits for undergrads in 2018-2019:

University of Florida

Resident = $112 per credit

Non-Resident = $500 per credit

Florida International University

Resident = $130 per credit

Non-Resident = $247 per credit

Augusta University

Same rate for resident, non-resident

Varies by program = $320 to $412 per credit hour

University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Same rate for resident, non-resident

$1,187 per credit

How can I get help paying for online college in Florida?

The first stop for financial aid for any student is to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see what opportunities might be available. To qualify for federal aid, make sure you’re applying to a college or university that’s regionally accredited. Scholarships are a great source of free money for school, too. Here are a few scholarships and grants specific to Florida.

  • Florida Public Student Assistance Grant (FSAG) Program for Public Schools: The FSAG offers financial aid to undergraduate students who are Florida residents. Eligible students must attend a Florida public state university or community college that is Title IV eligible with U.S. Department of Education-approved accreditation. The institution must also administer Pell Grants.

  • Florida Private Student Assistance Grant Program (FSAG-Private): The FSAG also supports Florida college students enrolled in the private university system. Qualified candidates must attend independent colleges or nonprofit universities.

  • Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program  (FBFSP): The FBFSP holds lottery scholarships for students with significant academic accomplishments. Eligible students must:

    • Attend a Florida public state university, community college or career center.
    • Complete specified course work and maintain GPA eligibility requirements.
  • Jose Marti Scholarship Challenge Grant Program: This scholarship is a need-based and merit scholarship awarded to graduating Florida high school seniors. Eligible students must:

    • Be enrolled at an eligible public or private Florida university or community college.
    • Be a Florida resident.
    • Have Hispanic cultural ancestry.
    • Not have any current student aid defaults.
    • Hold a minimum 3.0 GPA after 7th high school semester.

Online Schools & Adult Education in Florida

Both adult education and general online education can work in tandem to educate a greater number of people at all stages of their educations. Adult education differs from general undergraduate education in that it is often for adults filling in gaps of their education, trying to improve skills or transition to new careers. Adult education options in Florida include:

Adult Education programs can be useful for:

  • Academic Gaps Before College From brushing up on reading, writing and math skills to GED Preparation and English for Speakers of Other Languages, Basic Education and High School Diploma Courses are a facet of adult education that prepares aspiring students for college academically.

  • Technical Prep for College Though Florida’s college readiness programs are typically offered for traditional college students coming out of high school programs, there are programs available for adult learners, including seniors, to audit and learn skills taught in college before actually taking a course for credit.

  • Refugee Support An initiative by Palm Beach County, Project Transition helps refugees with basic education and counseling to help guide them to life, career or college success.

The U.S. Department of Education’s state profiles for adult education tracked how this type of learning benefited students. Roughly 30 percent of participants in Florida saw a measurable skill increase, validating the need for these programs, especially for people who have experienced hardships and setbacks, such as low literacy, homelessness, incarceration and other situations that may have prevented them from completing their education earlier in life.

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