Florida’s 10 Biggest Bang-for-Your-Buck Colleges

If college students are going to incur years of debt on their way to a diploma, they might as well look not only for best-value schools, but for schools with a distinct edge.

A New York financial technology company claims that edge could come by weighing a big post-graduation factor — choosing a college at a decent price where students move on to earn high starting salaries.

Financial software specialists SmartAsset looked at five factors to determine the top 10 best-value colleges and universities in each state. The company’s detailed report includes tuition, student living costs, scholarship and grant offerings, retention rate and most important, average starting salaries.

To capture what students get in return, the company looked at student retention rate (the percent of students that re-enrolled at the institution the following year) and the average starting salary.

They also weighted each of the five factors equally to come up with a ranking of schools in their analysis. With that ranking, they created an index (a sort of grading on a curve) where the No. 1 school was assigned 100.

Here’s how the Florida schools stacked up in order of bang-for-buck ranking:

1. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Universty-Worldwide, Daytona Beach. Average scholarships and grants, $1,450; Average starting salary, $61,400; Tuition, $7,320; Student living costs, $13,330; Student retention rate, 62 percent; Starting salary index, 66.88

2. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach. Average scholarships and grants, $9,450; Average starting salary, $54,500; Tuition, $30,720; Student living costs, $13,330; Student retention rate, 78 percent; Starting salary index, 52.32

3. Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne. Average scholarships and grants, $19,722; Average starting salary, $53,900; Tuition, $36,020; Student living costs, $16,470; Student retention rate, 80 percent; starting salary index, 51.05

4. University of Florida, Gainesville. Average scholarships and grants, $6,128; Average starting salary, $47,600; Tuition, $6,143; Student living costs, $13,870; Student retention rate, 96 percent; Starting salary index, 37.76

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