December 10, 2023

Florida's Advantages: Education and Workforce

United for Success in Florida

Education, workforce and economic development agencies combine forces in Florida to grow a ready supply of talent.

Janet Ware | 9/24/2009

Community and State Colleges

The 28 community colleges that make up Florida’s Community College System play a critical role in workforce readiness, preparing young people for further education or direct entry into the workforce, and helping adults acquire the skills they need to assume new jobs in clean energy, life sciences, information technology or other fast-growing industry sectors.

More than 830,000 students are served each year by Florida’s community colleges at 61 campuses and 176 sites. The majority (62%) are part-time students with an average age of 25, who fit classes in between work and family responsibilities.

Florida community colleges offer nearly 800 associate of arts, associate of science and associate of applied science degrees and about 500 certificate programs; 14 of the 28 schools are approved to offer baccalaureate degrees in fields such as nursing, teacher education, information technology and health services administration. In 2007-2008, Florida’s community colleges awarded a total of 72,760 degrees and certificates.

Recognizing that additional bachelor’s degree programs were needed in Florida to meet the growing, changing demands of employers for skilled workers, Gov. Charlie Crist signed legislation in 2008 creating the Florida State College Pilot Project. The law authorized 14 community colleges to offer four-year bachelor’s degrees at tuition costs that are lower than those for bachelor’s degrees from Florida’s public universities. Only 17 states nationwide allow community colleges to award bachelor’s degrees.

Florida’s 14 state colleges are able to respond quickly to workforce needs, training students for real jobs and offering degrees that large universities may be unable to offer, such as fire science management, paralegal studies, veterinary technology, international business, organizational management and information technology. And with a combination of online and actual classroom courses, these programs are designed for working adults who want to upgrade skills for the jobs they currently hold or train for entirely new careers.

Leader of the Pack

For the 7th year in a row, Florida community colleges ranked among America’s top producers of associate degrees (2007-2008 academic year). According to Community College Week’s 2008 Top 100 report, Florida institutions led the list of more than 1,200 community colleges nationwide in the following categories:

  • Total associate degrees awarded
  • Number of associate degrees awarded to minorities
  • Nursing, liberal arts and sciences, general studies and humanities degrees

Community colleges in Florida awarded 49,354 associate degrees in 2007-2008.

Public and Private Universities

At public universities, private colleges and universities and career-technical schools, students are acquiring the knowledge and skills today that will be needed by employers tomorrow.

At a Glance: Florida Education

Public Schools (K-12)


Average Teacher Salary (K-12)


Pre-K-12 Enrollment


Pre-K-12 Per-Student State and Local Funding


State Universities 11
Community Colleges


Independent Colleges & Universities of Florida (ICUF)


Non-Public Postsecondary Schools
(including technical & trade schools)

Public Technical & Trade Schools 45
Enrollment at Florida’s 11 public universities tops 300,000; another 120,000 students attend private, independent colleges and universities. In 2006-2007 (most recent data available), public universities in Florida awarded close to 65,000 degrees. The state boasts six major medical schools, two of which — at the University of Central Florida and at Florida International University — opened in fall 2009.

The Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF) is an association of 28 private, accredited and not-for-profit schools that are Florida-based. With 120,000 students and classes at 180 sites throughout the state, ICUF schools turn out one-third of all college degrees awarded in Florida, including 26% of bachelor’s degrees and 56% of first professional degrees (doctors, lawyers, dentists, pharmacists, optometrists and podiatrists). And instruction is highly personalized; the average class has just 20 students.

Additional educational options are available at career-technical schools and for-profit colleges where classes tend to be small and the curriculum heavily career focused. According to the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges, the number of for-profit colleges offering degrees in Florida grew from 238 in 2003 to 313 in 2008, and enrollment is on the rise. In 2006-2007, approximately 135,000 students were enrolled at Florida’s for-profit colleges, up 23% from the previous year.

Tags: Education, Business Florida

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