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Coastal College Towns: Your Southwest Florida Guide to Higher Education

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Our region is home to an impressive array of institutions for higher learning that are teaching many of this generation’s best and brightest. You’ll discover public and private schools located throughout Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte Counties ranging in size and specialties. Such diversity means students are sure to find the “right fit” for their discipline in an environment also known for its exceptional weather, beaches, and culture.

Below is a list we’ve compiled of some of the top area universities, colleges, and vocational schools arranged by county or watch the Saunders in 60 for some highlights!

New College of Florida

Founded in 1960, New College is a public, independent liberal arts college and a leader in the arts and sciences. Located on a beautiful Bayfront campus of 110-acres, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance has consistently recognized this school as one of the nation’s best values in higher education. Learn more at the New College of Florida website.

Fast Facts: Enrollment: 861 students | Student-Faculty ratio: 10:1 | Average high school GPA of incoming freshmen: 4.03

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USF Sarasota-Manatee

University of South Florida offers a range of programs for undergrad and graduate studies with a College of Business, Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, Science and Mathematics, and a School of Education. Visit the USF Sarasota-Manatee website to learn more.

Fast Facts: Enrollment: 2,041 | Student-Faculty ratio: 13:1 | There are over 17,000 alumni in the area.


FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training

Initiated by the Florida State University School of Theatre in Tallahassee in 1968 and moved to Sarasota to be part of the Asolo Rep five years later, the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training is a three-year graduate program. Only twelve actors are accepted from thousands of auditions nationwide. Learn more at the Conservatory website.

Fast Facts: Enrollment: 12 | Full tuition waiver and stipend | Third year of training devoted to working full time as members of the Asolo Rep

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State College of Florida

SCF is the region’s first and largest public college dedicated to meeting the educational and workforce training needs of citizens and businesses in the region. The school has campuses in Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, and Venice, as well as online classes. Find out more information on the SCF website.

Fast Facts: Enrollment: 11,000 | Student-Faculty ratio: 24:1 | 50% less tuition than the cost of a university | A-graded collegiate school with 29 workforce degrees, 6 baccalaureate degrees, and 28 certificates


Recognized as a leader in medical education, LECOM specializes in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy and dental medicine with innovative and affordable programs. With campuses in Erie and Greensburg, PA, and Bradenton, the majority of graduates from this private college become Primary Care Physicians. Learn more about LECOM on their website.

Fast Facts: Enrollment: 4,136 (all three campuses) | Receives the most medical school applications in the country | UN News & World Report ranks LECOM in the top five medical colleges for graduating primary care physicians.


Graduates at LECOM

Ringling College of Art and Design

Since 1939, creatives from all over the world have been attending this private school centered around the principles of art and design. Offering a BFA in ten disciplines and a BA in two, Ringling College aims to shape students into tomorrow’s leaders in the creative industries. Visit to learn more.

Fast Facts: Enrollment: 1,454 | Student-Faculty ratio: 11:1 | Named #3 Animation School in the US, by Animation Career Review; 13 Student Academy Awards; Top Design School by Graphic Design USA

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FSU College of Medicine

The Tallahassee-based Florida State University has a College of Medicine with a regional medical school campus located in downtown Sarasota. The school provides third- and fourth-year clinical training where the students rotate in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, surgery, obstetrics-gynecology, geriatrics, psychiatry, and emergency medicine. Discover more about the FSU College of Medicine.

FSU College of Medicine

Suncoast Technical College

STC provides quality technical education to meet workforce development and community needs. The school offers state-of-the-art career and technical programs for adults, high school dual enrollment, continuing education, and more. It has locations and numerous branches in Sarasota, North Port, and Venice. Learn more about Suncoast Technical College.


Florida SouthWestern State College

Initially named Edison Junior College which opened in Lee County in the fall of 1962, Florida SouthWestern State College has four campus locations including one on Airport Road in Punta Gorda. The college offers Associate in Arts, Science, and Baccalaureate degrees, as well as various certificate programs. The Charlotte Campus features an Observatory with public viewing sessions. Learn more about Florida SouthWestern State College.

Fast Facts: Enrollment: 16,830 (Fall, 2017) | Serves a 5-county regional area | 323 Bachelor’s Degrees

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Charlotte Technical College

CTC is a full-service technical college in Charlotte County with accredited full-time, part-time, dual enrollment, and evening programs. The school offers 20 career programs and a broad spectrum of training.

Southern Technical College

Offering career education across the Gulf Coast, Southern Technical College is an accredited private institution with campuses in Auburndale, Brandon, Fort Myers, Orlando, Port Charlotte, Sanford, Tampa and online. The Port Charlotte campus offers diploma programs in Medical Billing, Coding Technology, and Medical Assistant. Associate degrees are offered in Management, Medical Assistant, and Surgical Technician. Learn more about Southern Technical College.


From the northern to the southern part of our region, there are many opportunities for students to take their studies to the next level. Comment below with any vocational schools or specialized programs you know of that are not included in this list to help add to the conversation.

Coastal College Towns: Your Southwest Florida Guide to Higher Education was last modified: August 15th, 2018 by Kathryn Parks