Florida Gulf Coast University, or FGCU, is one of the newest universities to make its debut in academe, opening its doors in August 1996. Much of the impetus behind its incorporation was the overwhelming desire of Southwest Florida residents to host a world-class university in their midst. Not surprisingly, the allure of a mild climate, lots of sunshine and nearby beaches has helped FGCU more than double its student enrollments every year since inception to more than 10,000 students for 2008-09. In an era of college educations that cost upwards of $40,000 a year in tuition, FGCU is a relative bargain with out-of-state annual tuition averaging $17K.
Located on 760 acres in the heart of Southwest Florida, FGCU has carefully mapped out its location to maximize the surrounding wildlife and nature preserves and offer a “living laboratory” to students, faculty, and alumnae. True to this mission, FGCU is heralded as one of the most ecologically sound campuses in North America. The University recently purchased waterfront property in Bonita Springs with the intention of developing a marine research laboratory to further capitalize on its coastal location and the abundance of marine and bird life.
A co-ed institution, FGCU is four-year with accreditation to award associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. As of the fall of 2008, the University offers 51 undergraduate and 31 graduate degree programs in Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, and Health Professions. With the plethora of resorts and restaurants in the region, the Resort and Hospitality Management program is one of the more popular majors. Students can participate in an active internship program at some of the world’s premier resorts located just minutes from campus. Biology and criminal justice are also growing programs. The Division of Justice Studies is in its first year of offering a Master of Science in Criminal Forensic Studies, paving the way for future CSI investigators.
Students praise the small class sizes and individual attention with an 18:1 teacher/student ratio at the undergraduate level. FGCU is also one of the most technologically advanced campuses in the world with a campus-wide high-speed Internet network. Classrooms all feature fully equipped multimedia instructional systems that include Internet access, cameras and audio and video presentation capabilities. Capitalizing on its expertise, FGCU has hosted an Informational Technology (IT) forum for the past eight years, connecting area experts with MBA students in Germany.
While many students barely tolerate dorm or off-campus living during their college years, the 2,400 students who live in FGCU campus housing enjoy a comparatively luxurious existence. Residences are apartment-style, completely furnished and wired for high-speed Internet access. Full-size kitchens, spacious living rooms overlooking the lake, and automated laundry facilities are additional touches that give new meaning to the college experience. Other amenities include a swimming pool, barbecue areas, beach volleyball, and easy access to lake water sports.
Athletics are an increasingly large part of the FGCU program and encompass baseball, men’s basketball, men’s golf, men’s soccer, men’s tennis, softball, volleyball, women’s basketball, women’s cross country, women’s golf, women’s soccer, women’s swimming and diving, and women’s tennis, among others. The women’s teams have performed especially well, despite the newness of the programs with the women’s basketball team ending their 35-1 season with a loss in the Division II National Championship. As of the 2007-2008 academic year, FGCU moved to Division I sports.
Despite its sunny climate and laid-back atmosphere, FGCU offers a solid classroom experience. While students can take courses in paradise, graduates are well prepared to excel in today’s tech-savvy and increasingly green environment.