Joe Henderson: Florida universities and colleges have much to celebrate
University of Florida. Imafe via Facebook.

Take a seat, Florida Man, preferably in a classroom at one of the state's many highly rated colleges and universities.

In some circles, just mentioning the word “Florida” will get a laugh. Yes, it’s true we have had more than our share of strangeness. Across the land, millions of people know and chuckle about the antics of farcical Florida Man.

We get some things right here, though. Clearly, higher education is one of them.

The latest U.S. News and World Report’s public university rankings just came out and Florida educators should take a bow for their performance.

The University of Florida was the fifth-ranked public university in the country, tied with the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and one spot behind Thomas Jefferson‘s old school, the University of Virginia.

Florida State held its ground in the top 20, ranking 19th among public universities. Florida A&M was first among the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and 104th overall, and Florida Poly was No. 1 among best public colleges in the South.

And let’s not overlook the University of South Florida, which ranked 46th among national universities.

In 2018, USF joined Florida and Florida State as the only preeminent schools within our borders. No other public or private university in the country — none, zero, zip — has risen more in the rankings over the past 10 years than USF.

“The University of South Florida takes great pride in being recognized for its continuing pursuit of excellence, providing access to a world-class education and for being a top choice destination for high-achieving students locally and from across the globe,” USF Provost and Executive Vice President Ralph C. Wilcox said. “At USF, we believe that our trajectory speaks to our commitment to student success and faculty and research excellence.”

The University of Central Florida (No. 67) and Florida International University (No. 78) also made the Top 100.

It’s a remarkable achievement for the state and something to both build upon and brag about.

“As a Top 20 public university, our continued upward trajectory in the overall rankings of all universities is gratifying and encouraging,” FSU President Richard McCullough said. “These rankings solidify our position as a top university, and in many ways, we lead the nation when it comes to student success.

“Florida State has a fantastic academic reputation and that will continue to rise as people see all the gains the university has made over the past five years.”

The rankings, which review about 1,500 schools, are based on multiple factors. They include cost, campus tradition and culture, and, of course, the quality of education students receive.

It was a group effort, starting with support from the state to help keep tuition affordable for in-state students. At UF, the yearly tuition is $6,380, while at North Carolina it is $7,020 for residents. Virginia is more than $17,000.

The leadership and faculty around the state has been strong as well, which led to rising graduation and retention rates.

This is more than just a numbers game, though.

As the state continues to grow, its colleges and universities are preparing thousands of the next generation’s leaders. The diverse curricula offered at these schools will equip students in fields of business, agriculture, technology, research, the environment, and so on.

A strong education system is high on the list for major companies who might consider locating in Florida.

“Traveling the state, many people don’t know that our overall university system is ranked No. 1 in the nation,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said. “And when companies know, they know Florida is thriving with top talent.”

That’s why the state should be — and is — shouting this from the treetops. It’s also why Florida Man needs to take a seat, preferably inside a classroom. He might learn some things.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

One comment

  • Charles

    September 17, 2021 at 8:23 pm

    In some circles, just mentioning the word “Jackassery Joe” will get a laugh. Yes, it’s true he has had more than his share of strangeness. Across the land, millions of people know and chuckle about the antics of the biased Jackassery Joe Henderson.

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