Best Value Colleges in Florida

Education is the key to success and a better life - a cornerstone of the American dream. And here at ValuePenguin, we believe that a valuable education is one that prepares a student for graduation and employment in the real world without unduly burdening graduates with an unsustainable debt burden. 

With that in mind, ValuePenguin reports on the best value colleges in Florida by asking two simple key questions to determine value: 

  1. How much does it cost in-state students to attend school every year? We measured the total cost (tuition, room/board, books, etc.) for in-state students at universities in Florida. In thinking about the value of education, tuition cost is a critical factor. An expensive school that doesn't adequately prepare its students for real-world jobs can be a huge cost burden. Conversely, attending a cheaper school that prepares its student for better employment prospects after graduation is a great value. 

  2. Upon graduating, are students prepared for today's workforce - in other words, can they get jobs that pay off their tuition investment? There are various studies that use subjective measures to answer this question. ValuePenguin takes a different approach and has decided to address this question by analyzing the default rates for both Perkins and Stafford student loans at colleges in Florida. Here’s our reasoning: an investment in a college education (as measured by a loan for tuition) is worthwhile insofar as a college prepares one for graduating with a degree and securing employment. It can be inferred that schools with high default rates don't prepare or invest in students enough to enable them to find a job afterwards that will pay off their students loans: a bad investment, and a poor education value.

The best value colleges in Florida should focus on generating a good return on students’ investment by educating them well, and arming them with the skills and resources needed to pay off any student debt. 

More Information: ValuePenguin's State Profile of Florida

Best Value Colleges in Florida

1. University of Florida

Home of the Gators and birthplace of Gatorade, this university is the best value on ValuePenguin’s Florida list, with a score of 91. It has the fourth lowest tuition at $19,257, and the third lowest default rates for both of their Stafford and Perkins federal loan programs. The university is a hotbed of research and innovation, and regularly wins awards in categories such as most patents issued, or most start-ups created. If you’re looking for the best college in Florida, here it is in ValuePenguin’s opinion.

2. Florida State University

This second university on our list has sixteen colleges granting 275 types of undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees. This year alone, FSU produced ten Fulbright scholars and four Hollings scholars. We give it a score of 81 for its well-rounded combination of affordable tuition and low default rates.

3. University of Central Florida

Located 13 miles east of sunny downtown Orlando, UCF is third on ValuePenguin’s list of best colleges in Florida. The school had an enrollment last fall of almost 60,000 students, predominantly in professionally oriented studies such as the Sciences, Health & Public Affairs, and Engineering and Computer Science. UCF earns a score of 76 due in part to its affordable tuition.

4. University of West Florida

In the 4th position on ValuePenguin’s list of best value colleges is the University of West Florida. While its Perkins loans is a bit higher than the average, the University of West Florida has the lowest in-state tuition costs in the Sunshine State. Its campus is situated on a nature preserve and is a twenty-minute drive from Pensacola Beach. 

5. Florida Atlantic University

Next up is Florida Atlantic University, ranked #5 on our list. The University is home to 29,000 students who hail from all 50 states in the U.S. and 180 countries across the world. It’s one of the few universities to have its own music recording label, Hoot / Wisdom, for students interested in entering the commercial music industry. 


Top Ten Best Value Colleges in Florida


UniversityIn-State CostStafford Loan Default RatePerkins Loan Default RateScore


University of Florida$19,2575%3%91


Florida State University$20,3727%5%91


University of Central Florida$19,15812%8%76


University of West Florida$17, 39516%7%75


Florida Atlantic University$19,81413%8%69


Beacon College$42,0650%0%69


Nova Southeastern University$38,6944%4%68


University of Miami$56,5128%3%57


The University of Tampa$36,7059%8%55


University of South Florida$20, 59014%10%53


  • In-state costs are sourced from the Federal Education Budget Project. Student loan default data was obtained from the Information for Financial Aid Professionals.
  • Image Source: arturodonate / Flickr

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