Catholic Colleges in Florida: A Comprehensive Guide

Florida is a vibrant, diverse state with a wide range of colleges and universities to choose from. Among those institutions are several Catholic colleges that offer students the opportunity to combine their faith with their education. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the Catholic colleges in Florida, their history, what they offer, and how to apply.

Catholic Colleges in Florida: A Comprehensive Guide

What is a Catholic College?

A Catholic college is an institution of higher learning that is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. These schools typically have a strong religious identity and mission, with values based on the teachings of the Church. While some Catholic colleges are run by religious orders, others are independent but maintain partnerships or agreements with local dioceses or other Catholic institutions.

At a Catholic college, students can expect to find classes and programs that emphasize service, faith-based learning, and community engagement. Many schools require students to take courses in theology or religious studies alongside their major coursework. Students may also be expected to attend Mass regularly or participate in other faith-centered activities.

History of Catholic Colleges in Florida

Catholicism has deep roots in Florida dating back to the 16th century when Spanish explorers first arrived on its shores. The first established diocese in what is now Florida was founded by Bishop Augustin Verot in St. Augustine in 1870. From there, the Church grew rapidly throughout the state.

The earliest Catholic college in Florida was St. Leo College (now Saint Leo University), established by Benedictine monks in 1889. Over time, additional schools were founded including Barry University (1940), University of Tampa (1931), Ave Maria University (2003), and more.

Today there are seven four-year Catholic colleges and universities operating throughout Florida – each offering its own unique blend of academic excellence and spiritual formation.

List of Catholic Colleges in Florida

Ave Maria University

Ave Maria University is a private Catholic university located in Ave Maria, Florida. The school was founded in 2003 by Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza. Ave Maria offers undergraduate degrees in over 30 majors as well as graduate programs in law, business, and theology.

Students at Ave Maria are encouraged to explore the intersection of faith and reason through a liberal arts education that emphasizes Catholic intellectual tradition. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved with campus ministry, including daily Mass and adoration, spiritual retreats, and service projects.

Barry University

Barry University is a private Catholic university located in Miami Shores. The school was established in 1940 by the Adrian Dominican Sisters and has evolved into a dynamic institution offering over 100 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels.

At Barry University, students can expect to find a vibrant community committed to social justice and service. Campus ministry programs include Masses throughout the week, Bible studies, retreats, immersion trips both domestically and abroad. The school also has a strong athletics program with several Division II teams.

Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University is a private Catholic university located in St. Leo, Florida. Founded by Benedictine monks in 1889, Saint Leo now serves over 12,000 students each year on its lush green campus north of Tampa Bay.

With over 50 undergraduate majors available both online and on-campus alongside numerous graduate programs across topic areas of business management or creative writing for children’s books whatever young learners can show their skills here proactively . Student life at Saint Leo is heavily influenced by the core Benedictine values such as discipline and humility which extend beyond academics into student-run clubs organizations like Habitat for Humanity or Rotaract Club that provide meaningful impact on society.

St. Thomas University

St. Thomas University is a private Catholic university located in Miami Gardens that has been serving South Florida since 1961. The school offers over 45 undergraduate majors as well as graduate programs in law, business, and education.

At St. Thomas, students are encouraged to explore their faith through campus ministry programs that include daily Mass and a variety of spiritual retreats, mission trips both locally and internationally. Students can also participate in one of many clubs and organizations on campus such as the Pre-Med or Anthropology Clubs.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is a private Catholic university focused on aviation and aerospace education with campuses in Daytona Beach, Florida and Prescott, Arizona. The university was founded in 1926 making it the oldest Aviation College in the world.

While Embry-Riddle is not strictly a Catholic college per se but its Catholic roots come from Bishop Patrick Barry who allowed Father William Menster to start an aviation management program at Rollins College in Winter Park shortly before Menster began offering Night School courses (later known as Embry-Riddle). Today Embry-Riddle offers more than 90 undergraduate aviation-focused degree programs including Flight Operations Management or Meteorology.

University of Miami

The University of Miami is a private research institution located in Coral Gables, Florida that has been serving South Florida since 1925. While UM is not affiliated with the Catholic Church directly but it does have close ties to other religious groups.

UM operates an active Campus Ministry Program led by chaplains from various Christian denominations committed to providing students with opportunities to grow spiritually while also giving back through service projects like Habitat for Humanity builds or providing food for hungry families.

St. John Vianney College Seminary

St. John Vianney College Seminary located in Miami provides formation for men discerning a call to the priesthood through academic pre-theology coursework alongside spiritual development under diocesan priest faculty advisors on-campus. The school is named after Saint John Vianney who is the patron saint of priests.


Catholic colleges in Florida offer students a unique opportunity to combine faith and higher education. These institutions offer a mix of academic excellence, spiritual formation, and community engagement aimed at developing the whole person. No matter which Catholic college you attend in Florida, you can expect to be part of a dynamic faith-based community committed to building a brighter future for all.


What are some Catholic colleges in Florida?

Some Catholic colleges in Florida include Ave Maria University, Barry University, St. Leo University, and St. Thomas University.

What is the admission process for Catholic Colleges in Florida?

The admission process for Catholic colleges in Florida typically involves submitting an application, transcripts, test scores (if required), essays, letters of recommendation, and possibly an interview.

Are there any scholarships specifically for students attending Catholic colleges in Florida?

Yes, some Catholic colleges in Florida offer scholarships specifically for students who are members of the Catholic Church or who demonstrate a commitment to their faith. Additionally, there are external scholarships available to students pursuing a degree from a Catholic institution.

How do Catholic colleges in Florida differ from other private universities?

While both types of institutions may have religious affiliations, Catholic colleges place a greater emphasis on integrating faith and spirituality into academic life. This often includes required courses on theology or philosophy and opportunities for spiritual development through campus ministry programs.

Do you have to be Catholic to attend a one of these schools?

No, you do not have to be Catholic to attend a Catholic college in Florida. However, students should be aware that religious beliefs and practices will likely play a significant role in campus life and curriculum.

What are some notable alumni from Florida’s Catholic colleges?

Notable alumni from Florida’s catholic colleges include Bob Martinez (Governor of Florida), Rev. Bishop Frank J. Caggiano (Bishop of Bridgeport), Sr. Margaret Mary Funk (Author/Abbot of Our Lady of Grace Monastery), among others.

Can non-Catholic students participate in campus ministry at these schools?

Yes! Campus ministry programs at many catholic schools welcome all students regardless of their religious background. These programs often offer a variety of activities including retreats, service opportunities, and prayer services.

What majors are offered at Catholic colleges in Florida?

Catholic colleges in Florida offer a wide range of majors including business, education, nursing, theology, and many others. Some schools also have specific areas of focus such as healthcare or social justice.

How do Catholic colleges in Florida prepare students for the job market?

Like other universities, Catholic colleges in Florida provide career services to help students identify and pursue their career goals. Additionally, many schools offer internship opportunities and job placement assistance to give students hands-on experience within their chosen field.

Are there any unique traditions or events at Catholic colleges in Florida?

Yes! Many Catholic colleges have unique traditions or events that reflect the school’s values and religious affiliation. For example, Ave Maria University hosts an annual procession during the Feast of the Annunciation while St. Thomas University celebrates Mercy Week dedicated to acts of service with various activities throughout campus.

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