Florida Southern College continues ranking in the top echelon of colleges and universities across the South, posting three Top 10 places and one top 20 in U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 “Best Colleges Guide.”

“Florida Southern is consistently ranked among the most elite colleges and universities, and this year’s multiple top 10 U.S. News & World Report rankings are no exception,” said President Anne Kerr. “This is another confirmation that Florida Southern is among the best academic institutions in the nation. We provide our local and state businesses and industries the talent they need to innovate, succeed and serve our communities. Our elite status helps attract new business to our region and encourages existing businesses to stay and expand.”

The Lakeland college, affiliated with the United Methodist Church, placed

  • 6 Best Undergraduate Teaching Regional University in the South.
  • 9 Best Regional University in the South.
  • 9 Most Innovative Regional University in the South.
  • 16 Best Value Regional University in the South.

In their 36th year, U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges’ rankings assess 1,452 colleges and universities in the U.S. in 17 categories. It uses a variety of measures and years of data collection to develop its lists, often used by high school students to decide which college to apply to or attend.

This year’s list is based on information from fall 2019 and before (pre-COVID-19).

Kerr is especially pleased that the School of Education’s work producing quality teachers was noted. “Outstanding teaching is the cornerstone of higher education excellence, and this ranking is a credit to Florida Southern’s terrific faculty, who engage students and prepare them for their future employers.”

Exceptional Academic Programs

The School of Education has been recognized by the Florida Department of Education for having a 100% pass rate on the Florida Teacher Certification Exam. It is also in the Top 3 of all private colleges in the state for performance on the Elementary Education K-6 teacher certification exam. It consistently graduates students who are hired by Polk County Public Schools, which employs about 7,000 teachers.

“Florida Southern provides Polk County and all of Central Florida a pipeline of well-prepared, ready-to-go employees across multiple businesses and industries,” Kerr said. “Our active economic and community partnerships mean our students are ready to contribute from Day 1.”

Dr. Tracey Tedder, former dean of the School of Education and now associate provost of Florida Southern said the school employs “unique, second-to-none approaches” to prepare its students. It:

  • Engages them in clinical experiences from their sophomore year. “By the time they graduate, they’ve had so many experiences, on campus in our lab schools and in public schools.” Each undergraduate class also embeds a clinical experience, so students learn from the macro to the micro-level, she said. “That helps them be prepared for the classroom.”
  • Ensures a curriculum with a hands-on approach, “where students are engaged in discussing theory with faculty members who are experts in their field. Then they take that theory and practice it, and employ their skills out in the real world.”
  • Guarantees faculty who are scholars with practical knowledge as teachers, administrators or college professors. “They have what it takes to support and prepare our students. They are passionate about their subject area,”

“That’s been our formula for success,” Tedder said. “We offer the highest level of excellence, with continued opportunities at the graduate level.”

Innovation

The college’s No. 9 ranking in innovation was based on nominations from college presidents, provosts and admissions deans, who selected 15 from the Best Colleges ranking category based on innovative improvements in terms of curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology or facilities, according to U.S. News.

Kerr said she thinks the college was ranked high because of its focus on the student experience, as well as innovation in other areas. For example, she said, “We guarantee every student an internship. This is critical because we know internships are essential parts of experiential education by introducing students to potential employers, providing real-world training, and creating mentorship relationships. In today’s highly competitive job market, made more so by the pandemic, internships provide students competitive advantages.”

One of The Best in the South

Florida Southern also ranked in the Top 10 as one of the best regional colleges in the South.

“The college’s success can be attributed to its tireless dedication to providing a transformational education for students through a distinctive synthesis of liberal arts and professional programs, with a focus on developing students academically, socially and spiritually,” Kerr said.

In the last decade, Kerr said, the college has focused on growing the number of undergraduates, which now numbers about 2,750, and attracting those who are most likely to succeed.

“Looking to the future,” she said, “we will focus on growing our graduate and research programs to further serve students and our local and state economic needs.”