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So Many Choices

It seems like an easy pitch, right? "Come to FAU. We have great weather, we're near the beach, Boca is a nice town, we have a great football stadium, Owl pride is up and things are getting better all the time!"

And if FAU was the only school you saw in Florida, you might be extremely impressed. After all, several people are comparing our campus to a tropical resort.

But the reality is that there's an arms race going on among the different Florida universities. We're all competing for the same pool of students. Some students just go on to college because that's what everybody else is doing. Some students really want to college and will go wherever they get in.  And then there's a large population of students who know they will be accepted somewhere so they're really looking for the biggest, best thing that can give them the kind of college experience they see in the movies. So what do they do? They go on college tours and shop around.

If you're a high school senior here and you want to attend a public university in Florida - maybe because you have a Bright Futures scholarship to pay for it - then you'll probably apply to the Big Six (in no particular order): UF, FSU, FAU, FIU, UCF, USF. Some will cast a little wider net and apply to UNF, FGCU and maybe even UWF too.

UF and FSU you already know plenty about, and FAU probably won't steal many students away from them (unless they decide to go to FAU Honors in Jupiter). But where do we stand in relation to the others? Putting academics aside, if you were to take a college tour today the following things might stand out to you:

The rest of the "Big Six"...

FIU (Miami / Panthers / 47,966 students): Large enrollment, eight story library, you get to live in Miami and their new "Market Station" parking garage has a mix of retail similar to what we could be doing with Parking Garage 3 (Innovation Village).

They also have a cool tradition called the Walk on Water Race where students try to build "water shoes" and race across the lake. Thanks Wikipedia.

UCF (Orlando / Knights / 58,698 students): Largest enrollment in the state, great facilities everywhere, close to Orlando entertainment, nearby area responsive to college students, Spirit Splash tradition and an overall "student-oriented" experience. In summary, they've spent a lot of time and money listening to students.

Thanks Wikipedia.

USF (Tampa / Bulls / 47,122 (!) students): Huge enrollment, 6500 residential students, great sports facilities, lots of nationally-recognized acts come to the Sun Dome, awesome music building and a huge Student Union with this out front:

Their Student Union aka the Marshall Student Center. Thanks Wikipedia.

And the Others...

UNF (Jacksonville / Ospreys / 16,372 students): I actually really like this place. Huge library, interesting looking buildings (see below), Greek life is huge (1300 people), and a crazy 1,000-person dorm called Osprey Fountains with a lighted track, putting green, six different themed lounges and, oh yeah, a lazy river.

And this is how you get there. Nice walk through the woods. Thanks Wikipedia.

They've also got some cool buildings coming up in the near future.

FGCU (Fort Myers / Eagles / 12,683 students): A "death investigator" program, a sandwich shop called The Perch, metric system on the roadsigns, and hands-down the biggest draw being genuine apartment-style living on campus with this out back. Rest of the campus looks like this.

Thanks Wikipedia.

UWF (Pensacola / Argonauts / 12,823 students): "old time Florida" feel, ride a trolley around campus, bikes for rent on campus. They've got some interesting ideas for the future (football).

(I wasn't sure whether to include Florida A&M because they're a HBU so I'm not sure if we compete with them for many students (but I'm sure we do) or New College of Florida, which has less than 1,000 students... both of them are kind of different categories than the others mentioned here. It's worth a mention here though)

So where does that put us?

Well, even after breaking 30k students, we're still behind UF, FSU, USF, UCF and even FIU (who knew FIU was so close to breaking 50k?). For students seeking "big schools", we're in the middle. However, most schools top out at about 50-60k so once they hit their fill we still have space to add another 20k (as do the others - UNF, FGCU, UWF). I read something predicting that eventually all the schools in Florida will have 50k students, part of the reason why they pushed for the contentious formation of Florida Polytechnic.

We don't have the "great weather" advantage on many of them, although it certainly stays warmer in South Florida than North Florida during the winter months. FGCU may not have a beach but they have that mini beach right on campus. We may be building the Innovation Village but UCF already has their Knight Plaza and now FIU has their Market Station, with plans to build more retail around the stadium.We're pretty much all on the same page about where to direct our dollars.

We do have a great football stadium, even if it's not 90k seats. We have a movie theater, which is unique, and the Innovation Village apartments are fantastic.

We just need to keep up this pace, listen to students, and every time we go to build a new _________ we have to ask ourselves, "Could we have the best one in Florida?" We do have deficiencies in some pretty major areas (Greek housing, Student Union, basketball arena) but we know about them and they're on the drawing board for legit reasons. We're on a good path here, it just takes time.

So let's hope we make the right choices and never apologize for dreaming big.  Have a great weekend!



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