Florida Polytechnic University, the state’s only public university dedicated to STEM, is on a roll, ranking high in the state in one of WalletHub’s lists, working with the military to solve problems and gaining accreditation for its police work.

The state’s newest university, Florida Poly offers degrees in science, technology, engineering and math fields, leading to graduates who are highly sought after for high-skill, high-wage careers. Following a record number of inquiries and applications in the spring (pre-COVID), Florida Poly saw its fall enrollment increase to 1,423, up from 1,330 last year. That includes 500 freshmen.

University President Dr. Randy Avent said this positive momentum is good for Florida Poly, its students and the community.

“Being recognized by WalletHub as one of the best-performing schools means that Florida Poly continues to get noticed at both state and national levels,” he said. “Our university offers affordable, high-quality STEM degrees that attract some of the brightest minds in Florida and beyond. The success we’re seeing with career outcomes for our graduates is proof that Florida Poly is a great investment for high-achieving students across the state and the country.”

Some students have started their own businesses while attending college, like the group that created Madd Technologies to develop unique technology for the 21st century. Others are working with local companies in everything from aviation to medical technology.

“These rankings help cement and enhance Florida Poly’s place on the map of premier colleges and universities in the nation,” Avent said. “The report shows that our focus on STEM programs and our small, selective academic environment make our university unique and highly attractive, especially when combined with our affordable price. Florida Poly students earn in-demand degrees and provide industry with a pipeline of highly skilled talent ready to work and lead in solving real-world problems.”

As an anchor tenant within the Central Florida Innovation District, Florida Poly continues to elevate the opportunity available in Polk County for health-tech, information sciences and engineering, advanced mobility, mobility and innovation. In an area that encompasses roughly 3,000 acres out of 2,000 square miles of Polk, the district will provide a variety of opportunities to diversify the economy. It will leverage major state investments and build upon the cutting-edge technology being developed at Florida Polytechnic University and tested at SunTrax, the Florida Department of Transportation’s new 475-acre testing facility along the Polk Parkway.

Ranking High

The university landed in the No. 3 spot in Florida’s university system for top performance at a low cost, following the University of Florida and Florida State University, according to WalletHub’s 2021’s Best College & University Rankings. Nationally, it ranked No. 109 out of more than 1,000 institutions of higher learning. The rankings indicate which schools perform the best at the lowest cost to undergraduate students.

WalletHub gathered data in 30 key measures, then used that to determine the rankings. Florida Poly also ranked:

  • 14th in best career outcomes for students.
  • 34th in cost and financing.
  • 138th in student selectivity.

Keeping our Country Safe

Thirteen Florida Poly students are working with Army, Air Force, Marines and Air National Guard military installations in Georgia and North Carolina to help the military solve problems related to communications, logistics and modernization.

The university has incorporated the curriculum for Hacking for Defense (H4D), a program of the Department of Defense’s National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), into four Capstone Design teams, allowing teams to work together across disciplines.

“This connects us with a very large Department of Defense network within the state,” said Dr. Matt Bohm, director of industry engagement and capstone projects at Florida Poly. “Defense is an $85 billion to $90 billion market just in Florida, and even though these projects are with bases in other states, there’s a wealth of projects and jobs in Florida as well.”

Florida Poly is among the first universities in the state to become part of the program, one that it hopes to expand to 10 projects a year. It also wants it to become so popular that students will have to compete to earn a spot.

Right now, one team is developing tools that will allow Air Force operations group squadron commanders to access information — everything from flight and maintenance schedules to personnel data and social event notices — in a more efficient fashion. They currently have multiple messaging apps, email accounts and the like.

As part of the program, the students also must interview 10 stakeholders a week to gather information on their team’s issue.

Florida Poly Police Gain Accreditation

The Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation has certified that the Florida Poly Police Department meets or exceeds its high standards in its policies, procedures and processes.

Police Chief Rick Holland said the Police Department, where he first started as assistant chief when the university opened in 2014, has worked toward the goal since its inception and officially started the process to be accredited in fall 2018. Holland worked for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, which holds the same accreditation, as well as several others, for 26 years.

Assessors reviewed documentation for three days in July, addressing everything from agency management and field operations to human resources and special operations. They found no instances of non-compliance.

Accreditation for the department, which employs 10 officers and four supporting staff members, is good for three years, at which point it will be re-evaluated.