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Is smaller better? These South Florida universities think so

South Florida has many options when it comes to higher education. There’s a big private school with a national profile — the University of Miami — and a big public one — Florida International University. There are also two of the nation’s largest community colleges, Miami Dade College and Broward College.

Wedged between those giants are schools such as Nova Southeastern University, St. Thomas University, Barry University and Florida Memorial University. These smaller schools have specializations and aim to provide a different experience for students, both local and out-of-state, that they might not find at bigger institutions.

Because of the smaller size of these universities, and in some cases their satellite locations, or their separation into different campuses all over the state, they are able to foster close professor-student relationships. A student’s college experience is tailored as they take smaller classes and connect more directly with faculty. Here’s what some of these smaller institutions have to offer.

Why Barry?

Barry University was founded as a women’s college in the 1940s but started accepting male students in the mid-’70s. It has seven schools and colleges and a diverse mix of undergraduates, graduate professionals and non-traditional students. Barry emphasizes a well-rounded educational experience, with quality academics, experiential learning, exciting student life, and hands-on career preparation.

“One-on-one personal contact leads into every single piece of educational experience — in the classroom, in advising, doing research with faculty, students supporting services on campus … everything from academic skills to student leadership and involvement activities,” said Dr. Scott Smith, Barry’s vice president of student affairs.

Located in Miami Shores, Barry has just over 7,400 total students. In addition to robust NCAA Division II athletic programs, the university also has a law school in Orlando that creates lawyers with “a lifetime commitment to practicing ethically and contributing to the community,” according to the website.

Barry prides itself on its personal approach to education, fostered through individual contact with a high-achieving faculty — more than 80 percent of the instructors have attained the highest possible degree in their field. Faculty and students engaging in the community enhances career readiness and preparation. The liberal arts educational foundation Barry offers, paired with its professional schools’ programs, allows for more than 100 specialization options.

“The beautiful thing about Barry is it has a small-school feel and a comprehensive, diverse offering of programs,” Smith said.

The Barry University sign on Northeast Second Avenue in Miami Shores from March 2017. PATRICK FARRELL

Why St. Thomas?

St. Thomas University was founded in 1961 as Biscayne College. It, too, has a strong liberal arts core curriculum that emphasizes critical and analytical thinking, writing and reading well, and a personalized education. What draws students to St. Thomas — according to incoming President David A. Armstrong — is the fact that it’s a small, faith-based liberal arts institution where students earn a higher GPA, graduate sooner and with less debt, and earn the highest degree in their field at a higher rate per capita. St. Thomas provides a private education at a public cost, with 93 percent of students — the majority of them local — receiving some type of scholarship. St. Thomas also emphasizes that it’s educating students to be ethical leaders for life.

David A. Armstrong in the president’s office at St. Thomas University, where he was scheduled to start formal duties on Aug. 1, 2018, as the university’s 10th president. JIM DAVIS Courtesy of St. Thomas University

“We’re going to embark on a growth initiative, and the students that decide to come to St. Thomas now will be a part of a very exciting time of growth and participation,” Armstrong said.

Located in Miami Gardens, St. Thomas has about 1,700 total students and offers many undergraduate and graduate majors, as well as five doctoral programs and a professional law program. The law school — which was named the No. 1 law school in the U.S. for Hispanics in 2015 by Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education Magazine — contributes thousands of hours of pro bono service to the community, as well as multiple clinics. Students can contribute to hands-on research and will gain transferable skills for their professional life.

The gated west entrance of St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens from March 2017. PATRICK FARRELL

Why Nova Southeastern?

Founded in Fort Lauderdale in 1964, Nova Southeastern University is the largest private not-for-profit university in Florida. It has eight campuses throughout Florida, with its main campus in Davie and three additional regional campuses in South Florida — Miami-Kendall, Palm Beach and Miramar. NSU emphasizes experiential learning — the “NSU edge” — and practical and hands-on experience, bringing theory and practice together while still in college.

NSU is a university that serves South Florida’s Hispanic community, according to President Dr. George Hanbury. The total number of students is 20,793, and 10,718 of those students attend the main campus in Davie. NSU is also the home of the Miami Dolphins’ practice facility, in addition to its own NCAA Division II athletics programs.

“As an undergraduate, if you know you don’t have to compete with thousands other students, as long as you keep good grades, you can’t beat NSU,” said Hanbury.

A dual-admission program guarantees students a spot in NSU’s graduate or professional programs as they work to get their bachelor’s degree at the university. Almost 20 percent of undergraduates are admitted through dual admission. Students can participate in research opportunities and graduate programs, including a 3+1 education program that can lead directly to a job. The university has expanded its medical school, adding a new MD program to its already existing Osteopathic Medicine program.

Nursing students at Nova Southeastern University’s Miami campus. Courtesy of Nova Southeastern University

Why Florida Memorial?

One of the oldest and smallest universities in South Florida, Florida Memorial — founded in 1879 in North Florida — is the only historically black university in South Florida. The liberal arts university has about 1,200 students and boasts values such as leadership, character, service, scholarship, and accountability through 28 undergraduate programs and three master’s programs. Florida Memorial emphasizes “lifelong learning” and a personalized education in its ability to connect students to faculty.

“FMU has outstanding students and innovative faculty and staff who have a significant impact on the South Florida Community,” wrote Dr. Jaffus Hardrick — the interim president — in an interview in the Florida Memorial Excellence Magazine. “FMU is poised to be a vibrant HBCU once again.”

Located in Miami Gardens, Florida Memorial emphasizes the importance of students getting involved in campus activities — with its motto, “Leadership, Character, and Service” — and offers many opportunities to its students in the form of clubs and groups. It also offers eight varsity sports, four for women and four for men, such as baseball, basketball and soccer.

“The mission of Florida Memorial University is to instill in our students the values of leadership, character, and service to enhance their lives and the lives of others on our campus, in our community, and in the world through a transformational, liberal arts education,” says the Florida Memorial website.

Florida Memorial University’s campus in Miami Gardens. Courtesy of Florida Memorial University

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