Florida retains top nationwide higher education ranking for seventh consecutive year

by | May 3, 2023

  • Florida has been ranked number one in U.S. News & World Report’s nationwide higher education rankings for the seventh consecutive year.
  • Metrics such as college program completion duration, in-state tuition and fees, and alumni financial liability were considered.
  • Florida improved on two of the five metrics compared to the year prior: four-year graduation rate and educational attainment.
  • Florida’s kindergarten through 12th-grade education system was ranked 14th overall among all states. 

For the seventh consecutive year, Florida has secured the top spot in the U.S. News & World Report’s nationwide higher education rankings, having topped the publication’s list each year since its inception in 2017.

U.S. News & World Report factored in several metrics, including the length of time students take on average to finish their programs (both two- and four-year), the expenses associated with in-state tuition and fees, and student debt carried by alumni.

Florida improved on two of the five metrics compared to the year prior: four-year graduation rate and educational attainment.

Earlier this year, the State University System reported a 12 percent five-year increase in graduation rates alongside a 49 percent year-over-year drop in the overall cost of earning a bachelor’s degree. For the 2022-23 academic year, average in-state tuition costs at Florida universities are the lowest in the nation, according to state data — nearly $5,000 cheaper than the national average of $11,103.

Additional state data shows that 75 percent of resident undergraduate students graduated without student loans in the 2020-21 academic year, an uptick from 69 percent the previous year.

“Florida has long been a national leader in higher education, and retaining this number one ranking proves the Florida way is working,” said Brian Lamb, chair of the Board of Governors, which oversees the State University System. “By prioritizing student success, with an emphasis on providing all students a high-quality, low-cost education, Florida’s universities are leaning in to produce top-tier talent to meet workforce needs, increase research capabilities, and retain the best and brightest faculty whose excellence and expertise provide the platform from which we create the future.”

Moreover, once financial aid is applied, the State University System reports that the average cost of a degree is $1,550. The figure is a nearly 50 percent decrease compared to the year prior, and $12,210 lower in cost than the same statistic from the 2016-17 academic year.

Total research expenditure across the system’s twelve universities eclipsed $2.2 billion during the most recent academic year, with the University of Florida surpassing $1 billion in research spending for the first time.

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University also posted a record high in research and development funding, continuing its push for Carnegie R-1 status. The university reported $59.3 million in such funding and $75.5 million in total awards, according to the National Science Foundation.

As of 2023, six state universities — Florida State University, the University of Florida, the University of Miami, the University of Central Florida, the University of South Florida, and Florida International University — have reached R1 distinction, which denotes a “very high level of research activity.”

Florida ranked 14th for K-12 education, placing in the upper half of states for high school graduation rate (9th), preschool enrollment (12th), college readiness (15th), and National Assessment of Educational Progress reading scores (21st).


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