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A tree-lined path at the University of South Florida campus in Tampa. USF has about 48,000 students.

If you’re looking for some fun facts about Florida’s many colleges and universities, you’ve come to the right place.

This listicle isn’t focused on rankings (you can go to sites like US News & World Report for that) but instead shares some quirky and historical facts about several of Florida’s colleges and universities.

A statue of Florida State University’s mascot, lit up after the Seminoles won a football game against the University of Miami in November 2021.

So why are we at Florida Culture devoting space to the topic of colleges and universities in Florida? We’ve got a few good reasons:

Even if you aren’t college-bound, many of the college campuses are still interesting to visit. Whether you want to attend a sports event, get a shirt at the bookstore, or just go for a stroll, there’s a lot you can get out of visiting many of Florida’s college campuses.

We’ve visited seven different campuses over the past year...and a smattering of others before then. We once taught English as a second language for a year at Florida Southern College in Lakeland.

One of our clients publishes Florida college and university lists each year, and we help compile info on enrollment and school president names.

So as you can see, we’re a regular Betty Coed around here.

Part of the newly built Gus Machado College of Business building at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens, Florida.

15 Fun Facts About Florida’s Colleges and Universities…in No Particular Order

  1. There are 372 active colleges and universities in Florida, according to UnivStat.com. This includes a 200+ for-profit schools (generally speaking, these are schools that have a website ending in .com).
  2. The Florida public university system has 12 schools. The largest is the University of Central Florida in Orlando, with an enrollment of more than 70,000 students. As you can imagine, it feels like its own city when you visit. The smallest within the public university system is Sarasota’s New College of Florida, with around 700 students.
  3. The most expensive university in Florida? It’s “the U” aka University of Miami. Including both tuition and room/board, it’s an annual cost of more than $77,596 before financial aid.
  4. Speaking of the U, its campus is home to the world-renowned Bascom-Palmer Eye Institute, the leading eye hospital in the U.S. It attracts ophthalmologists and ophthalmologists-in-training from around the world.
  5. One reason to visit Florida Southern College in Lakeland is for the Frank Lloyd Wright architecture on campus. Thirteen of his structures are there. The campus offers both guided and self-guided tours. The campus is also located on scenic Lake Hollingsworth.
  6. The University of Florida in Gainesville is home to one of the largest occupied bat houses in the U.S., and it’s home to a staggering 450,000 to 500,000 bats. There’s apparently a time after sunset where you can keep a safe distance and watch the bats emerge.
  7. The University of Florida also is not far from Paynes Prairie, a large preserve and park that is home to wild bison, wild horses, and Florida’s favorite pre-historic creature, the alligator.
  8. The Miami Dolphins used the campus of St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens as their training camp for 23 seasons, from 1970 to 1992. For most of that time, the school was called Biscayne College, but it became St. Thomas in 1984 (STU’s roots actually started in Havana, Cuba, until the school’s land was seized by Fidel Castro.). St. Thomas went on to add its own football team, the Bobcats, in 2019.
  9. Southeastern University in Lakeland started in 1935 in New Brockton, Alabama, as the Southeastern Bible Institute. It moved to Lakeland in 1946 and became a liberal arts college in 1970. Its campus includes a new football stadium, a Chik-Fil-A, and a sweet therapy dog at its tutoring center.
  10. You have to drive through orange groves to get to Webber International University in Babson Park. After all, it’s located in Central Florida in the heart of the citrus-growing territory. Webber is located on peaceful Lake Babson. If you’re in that area, you can also make your way over the Warner University, about 10 minutes away.
  11. Ave Maria University, located about 40 minutes from Naples in Southwest Florida, was founded by Dominos Pizza founder Tom Monaghan. The school originally started in Michigan but was then moved to Florida. The campus is part of a planned community geared toward the Catholic faith.
  12. Florida’s State College system (once known as its community college system) includes 31 schools spread all around the state.
  13. The Florida State University mascots are Osceola and Renegade. Osceola is in honor of the Seminole warrior of the same name, and Renegade is his horse. Osceola and Renegade appear before FSU’s home football games. Click here for a video of them at a game. If you go in person, it’s quite the sight to see and to feel the energy of the crowd.
  14. Some of FSU’s famous alumni include actor Burt Reynolds, golfer Brooks Koepka, fitness guru Richard Simmons, and football player Deion Sanders. Famous University of Florida alumni include sportscaster Erin Andrews, home improvement expert Bob Vila, and football player Tim Tebow.
  15. Some schools in Florida’s Panhandle, such as the University of West Florida in Pensacola, offer reduced tuition for Alabama residents. There are a few schools in Alabama that also offer the same convenience for Florida Panhandle residents as the two areas are geographically close.
Butterfly statue spotted on the Southeastern University campus in Lakeland. You can visit two scenic campuses while in Lakeland, both Southeastern and Florida Southern.
A view of Lake Babson on the Webber International University campus.

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