Colleges and Universities in Southwest Florida

Posted by on Wednesday, November 27th, 2019 at 11:34am


There are a variety of colleges and universities in Southwest Florida. That’s one of the many reasons people decide to move here. The fact that it’s a tropical paradise with gorgeous beaches, favorable weather and tons of stuff to do doesn’t hurt, either.

What’s great about the variety of colleges and universities offered in Southwest Florida is that you don’t have to go far from home to find quality education. There are smaller, more intimate higher education options in the area. Each college and university in SW Florida offers something different.

There are 4 major colleges and universities in Southwest Florida

  1. Florida Gulf Coast University

  2. Florida SouthWestern State College

  3. Hodges University

  4. Ave Maria University

Florida Gulf Coast University


One thing that sets Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) apart is that half of its 800 acres is restored or preserved in nature. Established in 1997, according to its website, FGCU serves as a living workshop where life-enhancing discoveries are made. The Fort Myers university prides itself on being an incubator for entrepreneurs who help increase economic development, both locally and around the country. Florida Gulf Coast University also has a diverse selection of faculty members. They represent a varied group of researchers and scholars with a solid commitment to service and teaching. Unlike most universities, faculty members work on multi-year contracts, not a tenure system. 

Florida Gulf Coast University has six doctoral programs, 25 master’s programs, 58 undergraduate programs, 12 certificate programs, six colleges and four schools, and 78% of classes are taught by full-time faculty. 

Based on an alumni survey from March 2019:

  • 70% of alumni are working in their field of study

  • 20% have started their own businesses

  • 33% have finished additional education since graduation

  • 90% are working full- or part-time

Florida Gulf Coast University also has a variety of research centers and initiatives:

  • Center for Environmental and Sustainability Education, which fosters access to outdoor learning, policy-making and environmental know-how. 

  • The Coastal Watershed Institute was formed in 2004 as an interdisciplinary group of researchers, faculty, community partners, graduates and undergraduates. They focus on watershed concerns and impacts on the Southwest Florida coastal environment. 

  • The Everglades Wetland Research Park (EWRP) is located on the campus of the Naples Botanical Garden. It offers research, teaching and service associated with river, ecological, coastal science and wetland engineering.

  • The Vester Marine & Environmental Science Research Field Station in Bonita Springs is a resource for FGCU faculty, students, and researchers from throughout the state and the U.S.

  • The Center for Judaic, Holocaust and Genocide Studies at FGCU helps others learn about and better understand the Holocaust and other genocides. 

  • The Whitaker Center works with students in K-20 STEM educational environments to offer them materials and programs that encourage interest and promote public awareness of global and local issues related to the environment, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Florida SouthWestern State College

Formerly known as Edison College, Florida SouthWestern has four locations and offers classes online. It was established in 1962, and it has grown leaps and bounds since then. It is also home to the popular Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, where the public can attend Broadway shows, concerts and other events. The main campus is in Fort Myers and there are campuses in Naples, Punta Gorda and LaBelle. 

Florida SouthWestern State College features:

  • Six programs with 100% job placement

  • Five programs with 100% licensure pass rate

  • More than 45 academic programs

  • A 28:1 student faculty ratio

  • Seventy percent of students graduate debt free

  • Ninety-six percent of students who graduate continue their education or are employed when they graduate

The Office of Sponsored Programs and Research recently implemented the Research Expo, which occurs every April and October and allows faculty to share their latest research with students. Each event in the series starts with a poster session. The event is anchored by a featured lecture and it also ends with one. The goal is to foster and encourage deeper engagement with the Florida SouthWestern community.

Hodges University


Formerly International College, the private Naples university became Hodges University in 2007. There is also a campus in Fort Myers. Hodges has more than 2,000 students and focuses mostly on adult education. Many of the university’s degree programs are offered entirely online. The university believes in doing everything it can to set students up for success. Most members of the faculty have real life experience in the fields they teach, meaning students will learn more than theories and have access to their professors’ valuable experiences and lessons. Hodges also believes in flexible class scheduling for its students who have jobs and lead busy lives. There are more than 20 undergraduate degrees, 20 online programs and eight graduate degree initiatives. There are also a variety of clubs and student organizations to join. 

Hodges University has a 93% job placement rate, a 100% physical therapy assistant (PTA) pass rate, has awarded $11 million in Effective Access to Student Education (EASE) grants, and 82% of its students receive aid. 

Ave Maria University

Ave Maria is a Catholic university in Ave Maria, which is about 36 miles northeast of Naples. The liberal arts school has 31 undergraduate majors, and offers both a master’s degree and a doctoral degree in theology. 

If you are looking for a law school to attend, Ave Maria has been rated one of the top colleges and universities in Southwest Florida when it comes to passing the bar exam. The Catholic university’s bar passage was ranked No. 2 in the state of Florida last year out of 11 law schools with 84.6% of graduates passing the bar exam in February.  

Smaller Colleges and Universities in Southwest Florida 


  • NOVA Southeastern University

  • Rasmussen College

  • Keiser University

  • Southern Technical College

NOVA Southeastern University is based on Florida’s east coast. The Fort Myers campus offers bachelor’s degrees in education, health science, human services, nursing, psychology, recreational therapy, speech language and respiratory therapy. 

Rasmussen College offers programs in health sciences, justice studies, business, design, education, nursing and technology. It opened in 2008 and the Fort Myers campus is one of six in Florida.

Keiser University offers associate, bachelor’s and graduate degrees. Some fields of study the private, not-for-profit university offers are criminal justice, health care, business, information technology, education, legal studies and more.

Southern Technical College offers training and education in medical and technical areas of study. The school offers career training in business, allied health, nursing, information technology, veterinary assisting and technical trades.

Find Your Next Home with Royal Shell Real Estate

Depending on which college or university in Southwest Florida you’d like to attend, Royal Shell has homes in Naples and Fort Myers and the surrounding areas, so you’ll be near the college or university of your choice. If you're still on the fence about living in the area, here are some things to consider when moving to Southwest Florida. If you have any questions about the area or any of the colleges and universities in this post, let us know. We’re here to help! Contact us today to get started.

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