Saint Leo University (visited 2/9/16)
This is a stunning campus: clean, well-landscaped, and with new/renovated buildings that seem to have been planned out and meant to go together. There’s plenty of open space with a lake on the edge of campus. Students seem genuinely happy here: they’re interacting with each other and using all sorts of spaces available to them.
Located in the small town of Saint Leo, this is a religious school with definite Catholic overtones. “Students are spiritual. There’s a sense of faith, but it’s not forced.” Students do have to take 2 religion classes but there’s enough variety to satisfy everyone. The campus chapel hosts masses which they open to the public; student attendance is not mandatory. Monks and nuns still live on campus and some of them even run a local garage to pay for electricity, etc
The Core Values of the school (Respect, Excellence, Personal Development, Integrity, Community, and Responsible Stewardship) are heavily integrated into the curriculum and in other ways across campus. For example, the new Business building incorporated wood from the trees cut down to create space for the building. The library has coffee and tea out all the time for the students; the area was neat and well kept up. A couple students were helping themselves and picking up after themselves to keep it in good shape for the next person.
This is a residential campus with lots of open space. All freshmen and students need the unlimited meal plan. Once students move into a building with a kitchen (and most upperclassmen end up with their own rooms), they can drop down to the 5 or 10 meals a week plan. One of the dorms has an amazing lounge (open to all students) with a huge fish tank designed by Tanked (take a look for it on the Discovery Chanel!), a game room (including SkeetBall and pinball), plenty of tvs, and even sleep pods!
The 2,370 students come from almost every state and 66 countries drawing heavily from the Caribbean and South America. It’s almost evenly split gender-wise (with slightly more females than males). Tuition, Room, and Board run $30,700 making it a great deal.
I talked to several students in the dining hall who said they all were really happy with the school: “Tell your students to come here!” said one student, and others nodded in agreement. They did make sure to say that social life revolves around campus. The town of St. Leo has very little to do, but Dade City is a 5-10 minute drive. Another said, “Bring a car or you’re out of luck!” Orlando is an hour or so away (and Orientation includes a trip to Disney or Epcot). Greek life is present but not huge. Freshmen can’t rush until they earn a certain number of credits. Bingo is a big deal on campus. “They give away insane prizes like GoPro, X Boxes, etc. People get really hyped up for this. Sometimes it’s even themed, like people will come in costume for Halloween.” Sports are DIII (playing in the Sunshine Sate Conference). Rivals depend on the sport: UT is big because of proximity.
Business (including Sport Business, Health Care Management, and International Tourism & Hospitality Management), Criminal Justice, Education, Social Work, and Computer Science are their flagship programs. Students can choose specialties not often found at schools this size such as Criminalistics or Homeland Security within Criminal Justice or Advanced Literary Study, Dramaturgy, or Professional Writing within the English Department. They offer a Multimedia Management major; students learn management of social media, shoot commercials, etc. They have two 3+1 programs: marketing or management undergraduate with an MBA, and a computer science bachelors with a Masters in Cyber Security. Students in the Honors Program are automatically eligible for these programs (others have to apply).
Students all get a laptop or iPad. If they transfer out, they have to return it, but if they graduate, they can keep it.
Applying is free if done online, and they’re test-optional if the student has a 3.0+ GPA in high school. International students must prove English proficiency either by attending an English-speaking high school for all 4 years, by earning a 450 CR on the SAT (or equivalent ACT), or submitting a TOEFL score; St. Leo does offer a Bridge Program if students need to meet proficiency.