Full Sail University

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Full Sail University
Full sail university sign.JPG
Type For-profit university
Established 1979
President Garry Jones
Undergraduates 8900[1]
Postgraduates 170[2]
Location Winter Park, Florida, U.S.
28°35′41″N 81°18′11″W / 28.59472°N 81.30306°W / 28.59472; -81.30306Coordinates: 28°35′41″N 81°18′11″W / 28.59472°N 81.30306°W / 28.59472; -81.30306
Mascot DC-3 airplane
Website fullsail.edu
Full Sail University.svg

Full Sail University is a private, for-profit university in Winter Park, Florida.[3][4] It was formerly a recording studio in Ohio, and was named Full Sail Productions.[5] Full Sail relocated to Florida in 1980,[6] adding video production and film production courses and, with the move in 1989 to its current campus, expanded its curriculum to include other entertainment and media-related areas of study. Full Sail began offering online degrees in 2007.[7] The school is partly owned by TA Associates, a private equity firm.[8][9]

Full Sail is not regionally accredited, but is nationally accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges to award associate degrees, bachelor's degrees, and master's degrees in audio, film, design, computer animation, business, and other fields.[10][11] It has approximately 8900 undergraduate[1] and 170 postgraduate students.[2] In 2012, the tuition fees for a twenty-one-month course of study were in the region of US$80,000.[8]


Full Sail was founded by Jon Phelps in Dayton, Ohio, in 1979.[12] The curriculum was solely focused on recording arts at first, consisting of courses for students to learn how to become audio engineers.[13] The school relocated to Orlando, Florida, in 1980 and new courses were added to the core recording arts program. In 1989, Full Sail moved to its current location outside of Winter Park, Florida, in unincorporated Orange County;[13] the following year, it was accredited to grant specialized associate's degrees.[14]

In 1989, 1990 and 1991, the Full Sail Center for the Recording Arts won the Mix magazine "outstanding institutional achievement" award for recording schools.[15]

Enrollment doubled between 1989 and 1991, at a time of increased interest in film and media studies.[16] Full Sail expanded accordingly by adding classrooms and equipment, and increasing the number of courses offered. This accelerated period of expansion was not without its challenges and the school encountered financial difficulties in 1992, which were subsequently resolved as it entered a period of more conservative growth.[17] Between 1995 and 1999, specialized associate degrees or associate degrees were added in computer animation, digital media, game design and development, and show production and touring. All of these degrees were later expanded into full bachelor's degree programs.[14]

In 2005 Rolling Stone called Full Sail “one of the five best music programs in the country”.[18] The first bachelor's degree program, a Bachelor of Science degree in entertainment business, was made available at the school in 2005.[19] In 2007, the first master's degree program was offered—also in entertainment business.[20] Online degree programs began in 2007 as well—the first of which was an online adaptation of the existing Entertainment Business Master of Science.[20]

The additions of the master's degree programs, among other factors, led to the school being recognized as a "university" by the state of Florida. Its name was officially changed from Full Sail Real World Education to Full Sail University in 2008, after attaining university status from the Florida Department of Education's Commission for Independent Education.[21] The campus expanded at this time with the addition of a 1,780-foot-long backlot with 18 city facades, designed to replicate the sets used in production of actual Hollywood films and television shows, which later expanded to 2,078 linear feet.[21]

As the university grew in size and student body between 2006 and 2011, the curriculum and degree programs were broadened as well,[22] adding programs such as a bachelor of science in sports marketing and media[23] and a master of science degree in game design.[24]

Full Sail drew national attention when 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney cited it as an example of the way rising costs of education can be solved. Romney did not mention that its chief executive, Bill Heavener, is a major campaign donor and fund-raiser.[8] Later that year, WWE began filming all episodes of its internet television show WWE NXT, which serves as the flagship show for WWE's developmental territory NXT, at Full Sail University.[25]


Full Sail University's main campus is located outside of Winter Park, Florida, in unincorporated Orange County, 8.6 miles (13.8 km) northeast of downtown Orlando. The college campus contains the central administrative offices, university library, and academic buildings, including a production backlot, more than 110 studios and production environments, film backlot, auditorium, and Full Sail Studios. The university moved to Winter Park in 1989. Renovation and expansion into surrounding buildings began in 1995, growing into three additional buildings by 2004. In 2009, the university expanded into a fifth building, a 49,000-square-foot (4,600 m2) space near campus to accommodate educators for the online degree program.[26]

A 2.2 acre (0.89 ha) facility named Full Sail Studios opened in 2010, consisting of a 22,000-square-foot (2,000 m2) multi-purpose venue and a two-story 10,600-square-foot (980 m2) recording studio and game production studio named Blackmoor after the late Dave Arneson, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons and instructor from 1999 to 2009. This addition also completed the film backlot, totaling 2078 linear ft (633 m) and 19 outdoor scenic environments.[27][28]

In November 2010 the Sports Lab Powered by ESPN was added to the campus, a facility for research and development of new studio and remote technologies. The lab works in association with the ESPN Innovation Lab located at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World and is the only sports technology lab to be constructed at a Florida college or university.[29] Two months later, approximately 200 Full Sail Online administration and support team employees moved into the Gateway Center in Downtown Orlando.[30][31] Also in 2011, the university announced plans to construct an 86,000-square-foot (8,000 m2) educational building to house 475 faculty and staff, additional film and television soundstages and classrooms, and is scheduled for completion in Spring 2012.[32]


Academic degree programs are primarily focused on audio, film and media production,[33] video game design,[34] animation[35] and other studies related to the media and entertainment industries.[36]

According to The New York Times, Full Sail has many of the same problems as other institutions in the for-profit college industry.[8] They reported that some of the university's academic programs have high loan burdens and low graduation rates. The $81,000 video game art program graduated 38 percent of its students, who carried a median debt load of nearly $59,000 in federal and private loans in 2008.[8] The Times cited other Full Sail degree programs as having higher graduation rates, noting that the master's in entertainment business, "a yearlong program with a $36,245 tuition, graduated 80 percent of its students, nearly 63 percent of them on time."[8] According to Inside Higher Ed, "a closer look at the numbers reveals that graduation rates are not a major problem at Full Sail: the overall graduation rate is a fairly high 78 percent, according to federal data."[10] In the same article, however, The New York Times noted that Full Sail's own students have posted criticisms of the school, including some that call Full Sail a "scam" because of its high costs, low placement, and difficulties with credit transfer.[8]

The college was named FAPSC School/College of the Year (an award for which only career colleges in Florida were eligible) by the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges (FAPSC) in 2008 and 2011,[37] 21st-century best practices in distance learning by the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) in 2011,[38] and was the recipient of a 2011 New Media Consortium Center for Excellence award.[39]

Full Sail custom-built a learning management system for use with their online courses; the LMS is Macintosh-based, and utilizes content created by an in-house curriculum development team in conjunction with campus-based instructors.[7][40]

The university is not regionally accredited, though it is nationally accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).[10][41] The college has been subject to criticism regarding transferability of credits, as credits from nationally accredited schools often do not transfer to regionally accredited schools.[42][43][44]

Full Sail has a 55% overall graduation rate and a 21.1% student loan default rate,[45] higher than the national student loan default rate of 11.3%.[46] It is also listed on the Century Foundation's website as a university which includes restrictive clauses in the enrollment contracts, which are intended to minimize the legal recourse available to students in the event of disputes.[47]

Notable people[edit]

Full Sail University's Hall of Fame

Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Dave Arneson taught at the school from 2000[48] through 2008. Stedman Graham began teaching as an adjunct professor in 2009.[49]

On April 20, 2009, Full Sail marked its 30th anniversary with the opening of the Full Sail University Hall of Fame.[50] Machinedrum attended Full Sail.[51]


  1. ^ a b Full Sail University (four-year college). Peterson's. Accessed November 2017.
  2. ^ a b Full Sail University (graduate school). Peterson's. Accessed November 2017.
  3. ^ "Carnegie Classification". National Center for Education Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Retrieved 9 May 2012. 
  4. ^ "Full Sail receives university status". Orlando Business Journal. 24 March 2008. Retrieved 9 May 2012. 
  5. ^ Full Sail Recording. Billboard Magazine. 1979-07-14. 
  6. ^ Garcia, Jason (May 25, 2016). "Garry Jones' journey from student to teacher". Florida Trend. Times Publishing Company. ISSN 0015-4326. Retrieved March 27, 2018. 
  7. ^ a b "Full Sail Program Booming". Orlando Business Journal. September 21, 2009. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Lichtblau, Eric (14 January 2012). "Romney Offers Praise for a Donor's Business". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 February 2012. 
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  13. ^ a b CombatJack (15 September 2011). "Why You Should Consider Full Sail University". The Source. Archived from the original on 2011-10-23. Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
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  15. ^ "Former TEC Awards Winners". Mix Online. 
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  17. ^ Strother, Susan (9 March 1992). "Full Sail Weathers Stormy Year". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 31 January 2012. 
  18. ^ "'Rolling Stone' names Full Sail one of five best music programs". Orlando Business Journal. 1 August 2005. Retrieved 31 January 2012. 
  19. ^ Crabbe, Nathan (7 December 2011). "UF and Full Sail partnering in production programs". The Gainesville Sun. Retrieved 31 January 2012. 
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  21. ^ a b Horowitz, Etan (25 March 2008). "Full Sail digital media school achieves university status". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 31 January 2012. 
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  28. ^ McLean, Thomas (29 October 2010). "Full Sail Dedicates Facility to D&D Creator". Animation Magazine. Retrieved 22 November 2011. 
  29. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (18 November 2010). "ESPN Teaming With University for Research, Development Lab". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 22 November 2011. 
  30. ^ Hammel, Frank (28 July 2011). "Full Sail University Launches $10+ Million Design-Build Project". Projection, Lights and Staging News. Retrieved 22 November 2011. 
  31. ^ "Parkway Announces Leasing and Occupancy Update". The Wall Street Journal. 13 January 2011. Retrieved 22 November 2011. 
  32. ^ "Full Sail Groundbreaking". September 2011. Archived from the original on 23 April 2012. Retrieved 22 November 2011. 
  33. ^ Crabbe, Nathan (1 December 2011). "Trustees vote to extend Machen's contract a year". Ocala.com. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  34. ^ Pedersen, Roger E. (2009). Game design foundations (2nd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Wordware Pub. pp. 356–357. ISBN 978-1-59822-034-6. 
  35. ^ Chong, Derrick (2010). Arts Management (second edition) (2nd ed.). London: Routledge. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-415-42391-5. 
  36. ^ Steer, Daymond (26 December 2011). "Gifts, chocolate milk and tough questions for Romney during Conway town hall meeting". Conway Daily Sun. Archived from the original on 21 January 2013. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  37. ^ "FAPSC Honors the Best Among Career Colleges in Florida During 2011". Retrieved 8 December 2011. 
  38. ^ "Full Sail University Receives Numerous Honors from USDLA". U.S. News. 6 May 2011. Archived from the original on 5 September 2011. Retrieved 9 December 2011. 
  39. ^ "Center of Excellence Awards". New Media Consortium. Retrieved 10 December 2011. 
  40. ^ "Full Sail Launches New Online Degrees". Pro Sound News. 
  41. ^ "Full Sail University Accreditation Listing". Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. Retrieved 8 December 2011. 
  42. ^ Calhoun, Ada (11 February 2011). "The No-Name School That Mints Grammy Winners". Time Magazine. Retrieved 9 December 2011. 
  43. ^ Crabbe, Nathan (7 December 2011). "UF and Full Sail partnering in production programs". The Gainesville Sun. Retrieved 12 December 2011. 
  44. ^ Tussling Over Transfer of Credit, Inside Higher Ed, February 26, 2007 by Doug Lederman
  45. ^ "College Navigator - Full Sail University". Nces.ed.gov. 1986-06-29. Retrieved 2017-10-23. 
  46. ^ Douglas, Danielle (2016-09-28). "Student loan default rate dips, but 'considerable work remains,' education secretary says". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-10-23. 
  47. ^ https://tcf.org/content/report/how-college-enrollment-contracts-limit-students-rights/
  48. ^ Horowitz, Etan (8 June 2008). "D&D co-creator Dave Arneson retiring from Full Sail". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 12 December 2011. [permanent dead link]
  49. ^ boedeker, hal (23 July 2009). "Stedman Graham to teach at Full Sail". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 9 December 2011. [permanent dead link]
  50. ^ "Full Sail University to Unveil Hall of Fame". Mix Online. 
  51. ^ "LET ME HEAR YOU 1, 2 STEP". Interview. Retrieved 26 May 2015.