Florida Ranks First in the Nation for Higher Education, Report Says

Posted By Marisa Sanfilippo on March 23, 2017 at 10:45 am
Florida Ranks First in the Nation for Higher Education, Report Says

Parents considering a move to further their children’s educations might want to take a new look at Florida. U.S. News and World Report recently ranked Florida first in the nation in higher education.

The higher education score was part of a formula designed to rank all 50 states. The primary drivers of the Sunshine State’s performance were its high two-year college graduation rate and its low tuition and fees.

Understanding the overall score

The overall U.S. News Best State ranking was determined by examining 68 data points in seven categories:

  • Health care.
  • Education.
  • Infrastructure.
  • Crime and corrections.
  • Opportunity.
  • Economy.
  • Government.

Despite its ranking on higher education, Florida finished 24th overall. The top 10 states were, in order, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Minnesota, North Dakota, Washington, Iowa, Utah, Maryland, Colorado and Vermont.

As for education, the score in that category was divided evenly between kindergarten through 12th grade and higher education. The higher education score was determined by evaluating five metrics:

  • Two-year college graduation rate.
  • Four-year College Graduation Rate.
  • Educational Attainment.
  • Low Debt at Graduation.
  • Tuition and Fees.

The two-year college graduation rate measures the percentage of students who complete a two-year degree within three years. The national average for this metric is about 31 percent. Alaska had the best rate in the country, at 75 percent.

The four-year college graduation rate measures the percentage of students who complete a four-year degree within six years. The national average for this metric is about 54 percent. The first in the nation, Delaware, had a rate of 73 percent.

Educational attainment is a measurement of the number of adults in the state who have received a college degree.

Low debt at graduation is a measurement of the total amount of financial debt a student has at graduation. The lower the debt, the higher the ranking of the state.

Tuition and fees is a measurement of the average cost for in-state students. The lower the average cost, the higher the ranking of the state.

How Florida scored on higher education

While ranking first overall in the category, Florida did not rank first in any of the metrics used to determine the higher education ranking. The state’s scores were as follows:

  • Two-year college graduation rate – 3rd.
  • Four-year college graduation rate – 32nd.
  • Educational attainment – 28th.
  • Low Debt at graduation – 11th.
  • Tuition and fees – 2nd.

Top Schools in Florida

Based on the College Scorecard provided by the U.S. Department of Education, schools can be sorted in a number of ways. The three most pertinent to determining rank are:

  • Average annual cost.
  • Graduation rate.
  • Salary after attending.

The top schools in Florida based on graduation rate that also were at or below the national average cost and at or above the salary after attending were:

School Years Graduation Rate Annual Cost Salary
University of Florida 4 87 percent $11,778 $51,100
Florida State University 4 78 percent $15,827 $44,000
University of Central Florida 4 68 percent $13,724 $42,900
University of South Florida 4 65 percent $10,027 $41,000
Florida International University 4 53 percent $11,845 $43,700
University of North Florida 4 52 percent $11,870 $41,100
University of West Florida 4 47 percent $11,227 $35,800
Florida Gulf Coast University 4 47 percent $13,624 $41,400
Florida Atlantic University 4 44 percent $13,372 $40,700


Out of 175 schools ranked on the College Score Card, only nine were better than the national average in all categories. Of these nine, all were four-year institutions.

The future of higher education in Florida

There’s even reason to be optimistic that the state’s higher education performance could improve. Gov. Rick Scott unveiled his education budget and legislative proposals at the beginning of the year. The initiative is designed to keep tuition fees low, increase graduation rates at both two- and four-year institutions, cut taxes on textbooks, hike funding to the Bright Futures scholarship, and institute other changes.

The Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2017 is making its way through the Florida legislature as House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 2. The comprehensive bill does a number of things that should directly impact the state’s ranking in many of the key metrics used to evaluate efficacy in higher education institutions.

  • Increases financial support for students – Changes to the Bright Futures Scholarship Program, expansion of the Benascquisto Scholar Program, revision of the First Generation Matching Grant Program, and creates a need-based scholarship for the children of Florida farmworkers.
  • Tuition and fee incentives.
  • Streamlines procedures to ensure comparable credits earned in state are easily transferred.
  • Strengthens college and university accountability procedures.
  • Increases accountability in performance metrics for university funding programs.
  • Increases funding tools available to universities to recruit and retain faculty.

Is Florida really best in higher education?

These types of scores are subjective. They use metrics that are not universally recognized as being the best measure of an academic institution’s efficacy or worth.

But these types of lists are an excellent place for parents and students to begin researching locations to attend school. However, they are only a starting point for considering a move.

Marisa Sanfilippo
Marisa is an award-winning marketing professional who loves to write. During the day, she wears her marketing hat in her marketing director role and at night she works as a freelance writer, ghost writing for clients and contributing to publications such as Huffington Post and Social Media Today.

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