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.
For this year’s college rankings, our analysts carefully reviewed statistical data from multiple sources for more than 7,500 postsecondary institutions so that you could easily evaluate schools based on what matters most to you. For each school, we applied the eligibility criteria outlined below, then ranked schools and programs based on four ranking factors.
Eligibility Criteria for All Postsecondary Institutions:
Must be a not-for-profit institution
Must be regionally or nationally accredited
Must offer at least one online program1
Must be located in a state (schools in US territories and Washington DC were not considered)
Dozens of data points were used to calculate a weighted score for four ranking factors: quality, affordability, flexibility and program (in order of significance). To determine quality, which was the most important consideration for all AS Online rankings, the most impactful data points were acceptance and graduation rates; for affordability, tuition2 and grants; for flexibility, part-time enrollment offerings; and for program, degrees conferred in that program area.
Some of our nursing program rankings used exam pass rates from NCLEX
How to Read Our Rankings Tool:
A dash indicates IPEDS data was not available
Annual in-state tuition is displayed unless stated otherwise
1 Our Best Vocational Programs rankings included data for both online and campus programs.
2 Both annual in-state and out-of-state tuition rates were used in our methodology; however, our Rankings Tool currently only displays annual in-state rates.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 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.
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
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:
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.
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.