An Introduction to Colleges & Universities in Tampa

by Doug Schmitt
An Introduction to Colleges & Universities in Tampa

Tampa, located on the western coast of Florida, is the 3rd largest city in the state, with a population of 321,772. It is part of the Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater metropolitan area; a four-county area comprised of 2.6 million people. Originally inhabited by the Calusa Indians, the name "Tampa" is an American Indian word believed to mean "sticks of fire". The first European to visit Tampa was Pánfilo de Narváez, a Spanish Conquistador, in 1528. Explorer Hernando DeSoto arrived a year later and established a peace treaty with the Calusa. In 1821, the United States acquired the area and on January 18th, 1849, Tampa was incorporated as a city.

Situated near the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa's weather is influenced by Atlantic Ocean currents, giving it a subtropical to temperate climate. The summer and fall months are hot and wet, with temperatures averaging 90 F and thunderstorms being of regular occurrence. Winter and spring are foggy and mild, with temperatures averaging 65 F. Tampa's fabulous weather combined with numerous beaches and parks, including the North Beach at DeSoto Park, are great for outdoor activities such as swimming, volleyball, hiking, biking, boating, jet skiing, parasailing, and the ever popular sun-bathing.

Tampa offers many cultural activities and attractions to its residents and visitors. After the sun sets, Tampa's nightlife comes to life. Live music and drinks can be enjoyed in several clubs and bars including Banana Joe's Island Party and the Rock-N-Sports Bar & Grille. To satisfy the appetite, a variety of menus can be enjoyed at restaurants such as Kojak's House of Ribs and Mise En Place. Arts are an important part of this oceanside community. Eye-catching exhibits and interesting programs can be experienced at the Tampa Museum of Art and the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center as well as the Lowry Park Zoo and The Florida Aquarium. For the sports-oriented individual, Tampa offers the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning, and MLB's Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Tampa's economy is very diverse. Its base includes tourism, agriculture, construction, finance, health care, government, technology, and the port of Tampa, which is the 7th largest port in the U.S. Many corporations including large banks and telecommunications companies such as J.P. Morgan, CitiCorp, and Nextel maintain regional offices in Tampa, and the city is an extremely popular location for call centers. The pleasant climate in Tampa promotes a booming tourism industry that includes companies such as Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and Carnival Cruise Lines.

Going to School in Tampa

The Tampa area offers a variety of institutions of higher learning to students including private, public, and technical/professional institutions. Examples of these are as follows:

Private Universities/Colleges

Public Universities/Colleges

Technical/Professional Schools

For students, picking the right school and programs can seem very difficult, but in Tampa, students will find an array of studies to choose from. A few examples of some programs offered are listed below:

Mechanical Engineering, Medical Technology, Accounting, English, Environmental Science, Finance, General Business Administration, Geography, Geology, German, Computer Science, Criminology, Dance Performance, Gerontology, Graphic Design, History, African Studies, Physics, Political Science, American Studies, Applied Anthropology, Applied Sciences, Art History, Art Studio, Behavior Disorders, Biology, Mass Communications, Mathematics, Microbiology, Business and Office Education, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Communication, Deaf Studies, Computer Engineering, Early Childhood Education, Economics, Electrical Engineering, Elementary Education, Hospitality Management, Information Systems, International Business , International Studies, Management, Management Information Systems, Marine Biology, Marketing, Music, Nursing, Philosophy, Pre-Law, Psychology, Social Science, Sociology, Technology Education, Theatre, and Women's Studies.

With so many choices for one's perusal, how can a student pick just one? First, they can look at their own strengths and interests; what they value in life, and even their morals.

"A student's skills and what they are interested in should be the most important part," says Dan Van Hoose, Career Counselor at the University of Southern Florida Career Center. "What do they want to do everyday? These must be considered when a student is picking a program and career."

A student can also research and consider the economy of the region, discovering the types of trained individuals that are in demand. "Financial Services is a very strong area of growth here," says Myron Hughes, Vice President of Economic Development at the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

"We're actually called 'The Wall Street of the South'," Hughes comments. "J.P. Morgan Chase and Citicorp have major operations here. Depository Trust came here one year ago and brought 500 new jobs to the region, and Countrywide Mortgage just came here with 900 jobs."

Tampa's economy is certainly bigger than the financial industry, however. "Transportation is doing extremely well," says Hughes. "Bioscience is doing well too, and we're pushing for more growth there."

"People are always in need of skilled labor," he adds. "Our quality of life along with the weather make it easy to attract top talent to the area."


The cost of tuition in Tampa differs depending on which institution a student chooses to attend. Normally, private and technical/professional institutions have higher tuition costs than public institutions. Examples of tuition rates for Tampa schools are as follows:

Private Universities

  • University of Tampa - $17,906 annually

Public Universities

  • University of South Florida - $1,618.20 per semester, full time resident; $ 8,001.30 per semester, full time non-resident


  • The Art Institute of Tampa - $ 44,240 (based on a two-year Associate of Applied Arts Degree)

The examples given are basic tuition fees. They do not account for additional costs including book, lab, housing, meal and other miscellaneous fees that schools might apply. Students should investigate these additional costs as well.

Financial Aid

Though paying higher education may seem impossible, there are ways for students to make it affordable. The most common way is through the school's own financial aid and/or tuition assistance programs. Information on these programs can be researched through the school's financial aid/admissions departments and websites.

Another option is grants. These are based on financial need and do not need repaid. They may comer from the school itself and/or local and federal government.

Along with grants are loans. These may come from local or federal government. And must be repaid starting six months after the student concludes their studies. Examples of such loans are the Federal Stafford and Plus loans, as well as the Perkins loan. Annually, 10 million students in the U.S. will apply for these loans. 9 million will actually receive them.

A third option available to students are scholarships. Scholarships are awards that do not need to be repaid, similar to grants. Some are national competitions, open to most all students. However, others have special criteria that a student must meet to be eligible to receive the award. Such criteria could be based on the age, race, sex, geographic location, and major just to name few.

A few examples scholarships available to students in Tampa include:

These and several other scholarships are available to all students. For more information on Florida specific programs, visit the Florida Department of Education Office of Financial Assistance.


When an employer is reviewing the resume of a potential employee, they want to see more than a degree. They want to see experience that is related to the job. To gain this experience, a student can work in an internship. Some internships are paid and some are not, while others may give college credits. Internships may take place in a variety of settings including non-profit, government, and corporate environments. Above all, internships will give a student the edge and experience they need to be successful with their job search.

"If you're going to work while you're in school, why not work in a related field?" asks Dan Van Hoose. "It's as easy to get a job that you want as it is to get one that you don't want."

Through an internship, a student will develop good job skills and behavior, they'll get to contribute, and they'll have a chance to learn as well. Moreover, an internship can help a student to figure out if they're on the right career path.

"When it comes to a career decision, you can only figure out so much from research," says Van Hoose. "Test and validate it, get an internship," he continues, "ask yourself 'do I really like going to work?' when your doing that internship."

Employment in Tampa

Institutions of higher learning in Tampa strive to assure that students have employment opportunities. As well, they work to make sure that students know how to find the opportunities that lie before them. On-campus recruiting and career fairs present students with important job opportunities and networking contacts as well.

The University of Southern Florida provides a prime example of this system at work. Here, students are supported and encouraged to utilize their resources efficiently.

"We don't do 'placement'," says Van Hoose. "That's an old 1950's model. We educate and empower students to be job seekers."

Through this process, students are presented with several resources and are schooled in how to use them. "We do a number of career fairs for full and part-time jobs in the fall and the spring semesters," Van Hoose states. "We bring students and employers together, but we're passive in this process."

Networking is emphasized and plays an important role in seeking out employment. "80% of the job market is unadvertised," Van Hoose continues. "Only 20% of jobs are advertised because companies promote from within and network to fill positions. We help students network with them."


A diverse economy, beautiful weather and beaches, and several numerous educational opportunities coupled with exotic attractions make Tampa a an in-demand location to pursue a higher education.

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