Florida Gulf Coast University, or FGCU, is one of the newest universities to make its academic debut, opening its doors in August 1996. Much of the impetus behind its incorporation has been the overwhelming desire of Southern residents -west Florida to host a world-class university among them. Not surprisingly, the allure of a warm climate, plenty of sunshine, and nearby beaches has helped FGCU more than double student enrollments each year since inception to more than 10,000 students for 2008-09. In an era of college education that costs up to $40,000 a year in tuition, FGCU is a relative bargain with out-of-state annual tuition averaging $17,000.
Located on 760 acres in the heart of Southwest Florida, FGCU has carefully mapped its location to maximize surrounding wildlife and nature preserves and offer a “living laboratory” to students, faculty, and alumni. True to this mission, FGCU is billed as one of the greenest campuses in North America. The University recently purchased waterfront property in Bonita Springs with plans to develop a marine research laboratory to further take advantage of its coastal location and abundance of marine and bird life.
A coeducational institution, FGCU is four-year accredited to award associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. As of the fall of 2008, the University offers 51 undergraduate and 31 graduate programs in the 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 most popular majors. Students can participate in an active internship program at some of the world’s best 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-to-student ratio at the university level. FGCU is also one of the most technologically advanced campuses in the world with a high-speed Internet network throughout the campus. The classrooms are all equipped with fully equipped multimedia teaching systems including internet access, cameras and audio and video presentation capabilities. Leveraging its experience, FGCU has hosted an information technology (IT) forum for the past eight years, connecting industry experts with MBA students in Germany.
While many students can barely tolerate dorm or off-campus life during their college years, the 2,400 students who live in FGCU campus housing enjoy a relatively luxurious existence. The residences are apartment-style, fully furnished and wired for high-speed Internet access. Full-size kitchens, spacious living rooms with lake views, and automated laundry rooms are added touches that bring new meaning to the college experience. Other amenities include a swimming pool, barbecue areas, beach volleyball and easy access to lake water sports.
Athletics is an increasingly large part of the FGCU program and includes 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 tennis, among others. The women’s teams performed particularly well, despite the newness of schedules with the women’s basketball team finishing the season 35-1 with a loss in the second division national championship. Effective in the 2007-08 academic year, FGCU moved to Division I sports.
Despite the sunny climate and relaxed atmosphere, FGCU offers a solid classroom experience. While students may take courses in heaven, graduates are well prepared to excel in today’s technological and increasingly green environment.