O’Shea: Why diversity in our university system matters

President Donal O'Shea
President Donal O’Shea

From the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, March 12, 2020

One of the glories of the American higher educational system is its diversity. More than 20 million students attend more than 4,000 universities, public and private.

We have women’s universities, tribal colleges, religious universities and historically black colleges and universities. More than 600 institutions have fewer than 200 students, and more than 300 have more than 15,000.

This variety provides options for individuals with different interests, learning styles and abilities to choose programs that best meet their needs. It is one of the reasons 46.4% of adults aged 25-64 in the United States have a postsecondary degree, a rate exceeded by only three other countries in the world (Canada, Israel and Japan). Providing every student with educational opportunities tailored to their particular needs feeds our complex, ever-changing economy.

In some respects, Florida’s higher educational institutions reflect the diversity of American higher education. More than one million students attend 181 institutions. Nearly 80% attend public institutions: the 28 colleges in the Florida State College System enroll about 450,000 students, and the 12 universities in the State University System about 350,000.

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