Florida isn't just gaining national attention for lovebugs and strange crimes. It's also known for higher education.
U.S. News & World Report ranked Florida’s higher education system in first place for the third year in a row, said Syd Kitson, vice chair of the board of governors. The ranking is determined by a variety of factors but includes components like graduation rates and the cost of education.
Kitson said he believes Florida has done a good job when it comes to these factors.
The tuition in Florida’s higher education system has not been raised in five or six years, Kitson said. However, different types of students pay different rates. At UF, out-of-state students pay about 4.5 times more than in-state students, according to U.S. News & World Report.
“One of the things that we are very proud of in Florida is we are really trying to keep tuition low and down,” he said.
Part of keeping the tuition down includes graduating students in four years, because they are not accumulating additional debt or paying more for courses, he said.
Many students graduate with nearly no debt because of grants and scholarships. This includes funding from Pell Grants and Bright Futures, mechanisms that help bring the cost down for students, who end up paying an average of less than $10,000 for a degree, he said.
“Graduating students in four years is very, very important,” he said. “They’re getting into the workplace quicker, which is great for the economy.”
For Kitson, this success is rooted in Florida’s focus on performance-based funding and student success and outcomes.
“It’s making certain that the degrees that students are earning translate into the workplace, so when they graduate, they can hit the ground running and be successful early on in their careers,” Kitson said.
But even though Florida’s higher education is ranked in the top, Florida’s K-12 system stands at 27th in U.S. News & World Report. States ranked higher than Florida for K-12 education are concentrated in the Northeast, including Massachusetts in first.
“K-12 is sort of a different animal,” Kitson said. “They also need to have not just education, but the proper guidance. Not everyone should be going to university.”
UF also responded to the state’s ranking news - which are independent of individual university rankings from the U.S. News & World Report, according to UF spokesperson Steve Orlando.
The university released a statement that said it is honored to be part of Florida’s university system and is proud of the recognition from the report. It also acknowledged state policymakers and leaders in their success.
“Our amazing students and dedicated and talented faculty are truly the keys to our success,” the statement read.