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Higher Education in Florida

Colleges and Universities in the Sunshine State

With some of the best universities and some of the best beaches in North America, Florida rewards both the mind and the body.

As the world capital of tourism and of the space industry, Florida attracts many international students to its excellent programs in such fields as hospitality management, engineering, and space sciences. The state is also a thriving hub for global commerce, making it an ideal place to study business, finance or international relations. Rounding out the picture are many superb programs in fine arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences at over 100 public and private colleges and universities around the state.

Public Universities for International Students in Florida

Florida has 10 state-supported public universities, with more than 200,000 students. The University of Florida in Gainesville and Florida State University in Tallahassee enroll the largest number of international students in a wide range of nationally and internationally recognized graduate and undergraduate programs. Florida International University, in the cosmopolitan and multicultural city of Miami, is also a popular choice with international students.

The other universities, in order of the number of international students enrolled, are the University of South Florida in Tampa, the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, the University of West Florida in Pensacola, and Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.

Florida’s College System

The Florida College System, previously known as the Florida Community College System, is an organization of 28 public colleges and state colleges located throughout the state. The colleges feature open enrollment for undergraduate and workforce programs and have recently begun offering baccalaureate degrees in targeted career areas. In 2009, enrollment consisted of more than 845,000 students.

The Florida College System led the southeast region in the country last year in graduation and progression rates, and maintained top ranks nationally for leading America’s more than 1,200 community colleges in an array of degree categories. For the seventh year in a row, Florida’s community colleges were among the nation’s top producers of associate degrees and the number of associate degrees awarded to minority students, health professions and related sciences degrees, according to Community College Week’s annual Top 100 report conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Private Colleges and Universities for International Students in Florida

Of the more than 100 private colleges and universities in Florida, the most popular with international students are the University of Miami in Coral Gables, a comprehensive and internationally prominent research university, and Florida Institute of Technology, which is near Cape Canaveral and is well-known for engineering, aeronautics, and space sciences.

Nova Southeastern University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Lynn University and Eckerd College, among others, also have large numbers of international students.

The Two Floridas

In Florida, the saying goes, "North is South and South is North." In many ways, the northern part of the state, home to Florida A&M University, Florida State University, the University of Florida, the University of North Florida and the University of West Florida has more in common with neighboring Georgia and Alabama than with south Florida.

Fifty years ago, Florida was one of the smallest states in the region, with fewer than two million people, mostly in small cities and rural areas in the northern part of the state. Today, Florida is the fourth largest state in the country, with 15 million people, concentrated in and around the booming southern and central cities of Orlando (1.5 million), Tampa-St. Petersburg (2 million), and Miami-Ft. Lauderdale (3.5 million).

Most people living in Florida today were born somewhere else. In Tallahassee you'll still hear plenty of southern accents, but Miami often sounds more like New York or Havana.

The climate and terrain vary from north to south as well. It's an 850-mile drive from Pensacola, in the northwest "panhandle," to Key West, the southernmost point in the country. As you move south, pine forests and azaleas give way to citrus groves and tropical plants. While it's warm year-round in central and southern Florida, the north has a distinct winter, with cooler temperatures and occasional nighttime freezes. (It even snows about once every decade.)

Not Just Books!

No college or university in Florida is more than a couple of hours drive from a beach, and most are much closer. Every year in March and April, Florida's own college students are joined by hundreds of thousands of students from elsewhere in the United States who come to Ft. Lauderdale, Daytona Beach, or Panama City for the world's biggest beach parties. But there's always a deserted stretch of sand somewhere if you'd rather avoid the crowd.

If beaches aren't your thing, you can watch the alligators and exotic birds in one of the state's many nature preserves, watch a space shuttle launch at Cape Canaveral, go canoeing down the tranquil Suwannee river, spend a weekend with Mickey Mouse at Disney World, or fish for your own dinner in one of thousands of freshwater lakes. If you'd rather dance the night away, you might head to Key West, Miami Beach, Tampa's Ybor City area, Disney's Pleasure Island, or Orlando's Church Street Station.

But don't stay out too late. Classes start again on Monday . . .

Whatever you want to study, there's something for you in Florida. Come learn about the world and about yourself in the Sunshine State. You'll be glad you did.

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