Florida’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

Florida’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

What are the best colleges and universities in California if you reward schools for making the best use of their limited resources? Academic Stewardship asks how effectively schools manage their financial and human resources to gain the influence that makes them academically excellent. Schools that are exemplary in Academic Stewardship are doing everything in their power to help students and faculty achieve their full potential.

Colleges and universities in Florida deserve to be recognized when they do more with less. It’s impressive when a large wealthy school can spend money lavishly on expensive buildings and programs. But it’s even more impressive when a small school with limited means is able to train and inspire students that the larger wealthier schools tend to ignore.

The American Association of Colleges and Universities reported in late 2021 that almost 75 percent of higher-education professionals at US colleges and universities felt financial constraints prevented their schools from effectively attracting students. Distracted by the size and amenities of larger schools, prospective students tended especially to be overawed by the big research universities.

Florida’s smaller colleges, especially its liberal arts colleges, need effective ways of communicating their value to a world that celebrates “bigger is better” and “you need the best.” Unfortunately, most college ranking companies, such as U.S. News & World Report, define “best” in a way that devalues schools with smaller budgets and fewer students even when these schools do remarkable work in advancing their students’ education. By and large, college rankings penalize schools that serve underserved populations.

Inspired by Malcolm Gladwell, who for years now has criticized conventional college rankings for misrepresenting what’s good and valuable in education, we decided to construct a new ranking metric that highlights those schools that do more with less. That metric—called the Academic Stewardship metric—takes away both the size and the wealth advantage of schools, and focuses instead on how well schools use the resources available to them to advance the education of their students.

How We Measure the Academic Stewardship of Florida’s Colleges and Universities

Florida's Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship
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As a metric, Academic Stewardship is defined by a precise mathematical formula, which can be found in our Academic Stewardship white paper. Measuring the Academic Stewardship of Florida’s colleges requires measuring two forms of stewardship: 1) Stewardship of financial resources (using the money they have responsibility without waste) and 2) Stewardship of human resources (doing their best to help students, faculty, and administration to flourish). Together, these two types of stewardship form what we call  Academic Stewardship. If you want to learn more about the factors involved in Academic Stewardship, click the more button below.

  1. Stewardship of financial resources: To determine a school’s stewardship of financial resources, we factored in its undergraduate size, budget, endowments and reserves, as well as tuition and fees. All these data are available from the National Center for Educational Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. In addition, we factored in a school’s financial responsibility as gauged by the Federal Student Aid Office at the US Department of Education through its financial responsibility composite scores.
  2. Stewardship of human resources: To determine a school’s stewardship of human resources, we used our InfluenceRanking engine to track the influence of the school’s faculty and alumni but also to control for size of the undergraduate student body. We’ve found that measuring a school’s influence based on the contributions of faculty and alumni make in their fields of study but then also controlling for size of the undergraduate population is the single best indicator of academic excellence. We call this Concentrated Influence. Schools that rank highly in Concentrated Influence are schools that, given their available human resources, invest heavily in their students and faculty, and the results are demonstrable.
    • We measure the influence of colleges and universities based on the publications and citations of the schools’ faculty and alumni who are teaching in and working in areas related to their degrees. To do this, we take publicly available databases, such as Semantic Scholar, Crossref, and Wikipedia and use these to measure the influence of academics in their disciplines. Having measured the influence of persons, we then identify the schools that they’re affiliated with, adding up the influence scores of the faculty and alumni to measure the influence of the schools and their disciplinary programs. Finally, we control these influence scores by size of undergraduate student body so that schools do not score high in influence simply because of a size advantage. We lay out these methodological considerations on our methodology page.
  3. Academic Stewardship: Having measured a school’s stewardship of financial and human resources in the two previous points, we now divide the second measure by the first to define the Academic Stewardship metric. This metric spotlights smaller schools, with fewer financial resources and people, that invest wisely and do proportionately better in building influence than large wealthy schools. Many of these smaller, less wealthy schools are incentivized to make better use of their resources but would never get recognized in conventional school rankings, which directly or indirectly put a premium on the wealth of schools.

Academic Stewardship as so defined is connected to keeping tuition and other costs down, but it should not be confused with affordability or frugality. The schools that this metric ranks as exemplary academic stewards tend to be all over the map when it comes to tuition and other costs. At issue is the influence of schools given the financial and human resources they have on hand. If a school is going to charge more for tuition, then that needs to be reflected in the school having proportionately greater influence.

Why Academic Stewardship Matters to Students and Their Families

The benefits of attending a school with strong academic stewardship include:

  • A clear reason for why students are at the school in the first place. Without the distraction of amenities and luxuries, these schools are at once unpretentious but also passionately committed to their educational mission. The schools in this ranking are financially efficient and academically rigorous. By avoiding frills, these schools take the most direct path to accomplishing their mission of educating students.
  • Valuing character over prestige and self-indulgence. A school that’s a good steward of its resources doesn’t instill shame in its students over what they are missing (such as elite cuisine) but rather pride in what they have and making the most of it. These schools exhibit a culture of good stewardship, which tends to build good character in the students that attend these schools.
  • Avoiding the spoiled-student syndrome. It’s easy to think that offering students endless options and opportunities will enrich their time at school in every way. But spoiling people—whether in business, sports, or academics—has the opposite effect, causing people to take their advantages for granted and in the end achieving less than they might otherwise, a point well-documented in Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code. Schools exhibiting academic stewardship avoid this pitfall.
  • The best schools vs. the schools that help students to be their best. Students at schools demonstrating outstanding academic stewardship aren’t so much concerned about being at the “best” school, whatever that may mean, as about being at a school that helps them to be their best. These schools pay attention to their students, hoping that any glory goes to them rather than to the school. Small schools, and especially liberal arts colleges, help themselves by communicating this advantage to prospective students.
  • Emphasizing development over talent and achievement. Schools like Harvard and Stanford have their pick of academic talent, and their students have a long record of achievement even before they apply to such elite schools. But if a school doesn’t have the resources of a Harvard or Stanford, how does it build a great team of students? In that case, it must focus on student development. Colleges exemplifying academic stewardship emphasize student growth and development, ensuring that the schools are doing everything in their power to help students reach their full potential and thereby become their best selves.
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Florida’s Best Colleges and Universities by Academic Stewardship

  1. #2

    Ave Maria University

    Ave Maria , FL

    Tuition + fees

    $25K

    Acceptance

    92%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1135/24

    What is Ave Maria University known for?

    Ave Maria University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science
    • Physics
    • Business
    • Education
    • History
    • Economics
    • Biology
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #3

    Eckerd College

    Saint Petersburg , FL

    Tuition + fees

    $48K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1185/26

    What is Eckerd College known for?

    Eckerd College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Anthropology
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Economics
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #4

    Rollins College

    Winter Park , FL
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    61%

    Graduation

    81%

    Student body

    3K

    What is Rollins College known for?

    Rollins College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Chemistry
    • Business
    • Economics
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • History
    • Education
    • Social Work
    • Political Science
    • Sociology

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #5

    Florida Southern College

    Lakeland , FL

    Tuition + fees

    $39K

    Acceptance

    50%

    Graduation

    68%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1192/26

    What is Florida Southern College known for?

    Florida Southern College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Biology
    • Medical
    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Religious Studies
    • Literature
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #6

    Jacksonville University

    Jacksonville , FL

    Tuition + fees

    $42K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1035/21

    What is Jacksonville University known for?

    Jacksonville University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Nursing
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Medical
    • Literature
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. Tuition + fees

    $43K

    Acceptance

    70%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1255/27

    What is Florida Institute of Technology known for?

    Florida Institute of Technology’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Physics
    • Mathematics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #8

    Stetson University

    DeLand , FL

    Tuition + fees

    $51K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    64%

    Student body

    4K

    What is Stetson University known for?

    Stetson University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Business
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #9

    Barry University

    Miami , FL

    Tuition + fees

    $32K

    Acceptance

    65%

    Graduation

    36%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1005/19

    What is Barry University known for?

    Barry University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Nursing
    • Communications
    • Law
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #11

    University of West Florida

    Pensacola , FL

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Acceptance

    58%

    Graduation

    48%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1170/25

    What is University of West Florida known for?

    University of West Florida’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry
    • Engineering
    • Anthropology
    • Sociology
    • Biology
    • Social Work
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Earth Sciences

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #12

    University of North Florida

    Jacksonville , FL

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1175/22

    What is University of North Florida known for?

    University of North Florida’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Nursing
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Economics
    • Engineering
    • Medical
    • Mathematics
    • Psychology
    • Criminal Justice

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #13

    Saint Leo University

    Saint Leo , FL

    Tuition + fees

    $26K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    10K

    What is Saint Leo University known for?

    Saint Leo University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Social Work
    • Sociology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Business
    • History
    • Economics
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  12. #16

    Florida Gulf Coast University

    Fort Myers , FL

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Acceptance

    77%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    13K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1135/23

    What is Florida Gulf Coast University known for?

    Florida Gulf Coast University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Economics
    • Criminal Justice
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Nursing
    • Mathematics
    • History
    • Social Work

    Most Influential Alumni

  13. #17

    University of Tampa

    Tampa , FL

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    56%

    Graduation

    60%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1175/25

    What is University of Tampa known for?

    University of Tampa’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • History
    • Economics
    • Literature
    • Sociology
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Nursing

    Most Influential Alumni

  14. #18

    Florida Atlantic University

    Boca Raton , FL
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $5K

    Acceptance

    75%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    26K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1160/24

    What is Florida Atlantic University known for?

    Florida Atlantic University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Computer Science
    • Psychology
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • Criminal Justice
    • Political Science
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • Biology
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  15. #19

    University of Florida

    Gainesville , FL
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Acceptance

    31%

    Graduation

    89%

    Student body

    47K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1390/30

    What is University of Florida known for?

    University of Florida’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Anthropology
    • History
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Law
    • Criminal Justice
    • Nursing
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  16. #20

    Nova Southeastern University

    Fort Lauderdale , FL

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    76%

    Graduation

    62%

    Student body

    14K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1175/24

    What is Nova Southeastern University known for?

    Nova Southeastern University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Psychology
    • Criminal Justice
    • Medical
    • Mathematics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Biology
    • Law
    • Political Science
    • Education
    • Business

    Most Influential Alumni

  17. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Acceptance

    49%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    44K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1250/27

    What is University of South Florida known for?

    University of South Florida’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Nursing
    • Medical
    • Social Work
    • Anthropology
    • Biology
    • Psychology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Chemistry
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

  18. #22

    St. Petersburg College

    Clearwater , FL

    Tuition + fees

    $3K

    Graduation

    33%

    Student body

    19K

    What is St. Petersburg College known for?

    St. Petersburg College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Nursing
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Communications
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Social Work

    Most Influential Alumni

  19. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    58%

    Graduation

    67%

    Student body

    48K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1195/25

    What is Florida International University known for?

    Florida International University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Political Science
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Communications
    • Education
    • Economics
    • Business
    • Law
    • Social Work

    Most Influential Alumni

  20. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Acceptance

    45%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    60K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1255/27

    What is University of Central Florida known for?

    University of Central Florida’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Earth Sciences
    • Physics
    • Nursing
    • Chemistry
    • Business
    • Economics
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  21. #25

    Valencia College

    Orlando , FL

    Tuition + fees

    $2K

    Graduation

    44%

    Student body

    34K

    What is Valencia College known for?

    Valencia College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Criminal Justice
    • Nursing
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Medical
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

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Florida’s Best Colleges in Your Area of Interest

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Colleges and Universities in Florida

Coming in under the national tuition average at $6,360, Florida’s colleges and universities make earning your degree affordable. Prospective students in Florida can choose from 40 public and 50 private colleges that award associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in fields like anthropology, nursing, law, religious studies, and earth sciences. Nearly 40 colleges and universities in Florida offer online degrees that provide extra flexibility for educational opportunities. With over 165,000 students across eight campuses and 21 outreach centers, Miami Dade College is the largest public college in the state with a tuition of $3,000.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

Students seeking a religious school can choose from 21 colleges and universities that are grounded in Judeo-Christian, Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, and Christian principals. Ranked as the top two schools, the University of Florida (UF) and Florida State University (FSU) both have large student populations, with just over 45,000 at UF and just under 39,000 as FSU. Both are also affordable, with tuition at $6,000 and $7,000, respectively.

At $50,000, the University of Miami is the most expensive private college in the state and has graduated influential people, such as Gene Roddenberry, Sylvester Stallone, and Dwayne The Rock Johnson. Florida also offers its nursing students up to $4,000 in loan forgiveness through their Nursing Student Loan Forgiveness Program.

Coastal cities, sandy beaches, orange groves, and vibrant flowers — it’s no wonder Florida is called The Sunshine State. Home to the famous Everglades National Park and Disney World, Florida also boasts 90 higher education institutes.

With so many options and in such a beautiful setting, Florida has a lot to offer higher education students. Check out Florida’s best degree programs and top career paths.


What are Florida’s Colleges & Universities?

Florida’s Best Overall