Full Sail University

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Full Sail University
Full sail university sign.JPG
TypeFor-profit university[1]
PresidentGarry Jones
Location, ,
United States

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
MascotDC-3 airplane
Full Sail University.svg

Full Sail University is a private, for-profit university in Winter Park, Florida.[5] It was formerly a recording studio in Ohio named Full Sail Productions[6] and Full Sail Center for the Recording Arts.[7] The school moved to Florida in 1980[8] and began offering online degrees in 2007.[9]

Full Sail is nationally accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges to award associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees in audio, design, computer animation and business.[10][11] In November 2018 it had approximately 8,921 local students,[2] as well as 10,250 students enrolled in online courses.[3] In 2019, tuition started at $450 per credit hour.[12]


Full Sail University was founded by Jon Phelps in Dayton, Ohio, in 1979.[13] Its curriculum was centered on recording arts and offered courses in audio engineering.[14] It relocated to Orlando, Florida, in 1980 and added new courses to its core recording arts program. In 1989, Full Sail moved to its current location at Winter Park, Florida;[14] the following year, it was accredited to grant specialized associate degrees.[15]

Full Sail Studios Arch

Enrollment doubled between 1989 and 1991 at a time of increased interest in film and media studies.[16] The university had financial difficulties in 1992 and its growth slowed.[17] Between 1995 and 1999, it began offering associate degrees in computer animation, digital media, game design and development, and show production and touring; these were later expanded into full bachelor's degree programs.[15]

In 2005, the school offered its first bachelor's degree program, a Bachelor of Science degree in entertainment business.[18] In 2007, the first master's degree program—also in the entertainment industry—was offered.[19] Online degree programs began in 2007, the first of which was an online adaptation of the existing Entertainment Business Master of Science.[19]

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. In 2008 it changed its name from Full Sail Real World Education to Full Sail University after attaining university status from the Florida Department of Education's Commission for Independent Education.[20] The campus expanded with the addition of a 1,780-foot (540 m)-long backlot with 18 city facades designed to replicate the sets used in production of Hollywood films and television shows, which later expanded to 2,078 feet (633 m).[20]

As the university grew between 2006 and 2011, the curriculum and degree programs were broadened,[21] adding programs such as a Bachelor of Science in sports marketing and media,[22] and a Master of Science degree in game design.[23]

On April 20, 2009, Full Sail marked its 30th anniversary with the opening of the Full Sail University Hall of Fame.[24]

In 2012 WWE began filming episodes of its internet television show WWE NXT at Full Sail University.[25] In June 2015, the school began hosting the WWE Tough Enough series.[26] As part of the partnership between Full Sail and WWE, students have the opportunity to produce WWE NXT tapings, during which merchandise and tickets sales contribute to a scholarship fund for students enrolled at the university.[27][28] As of January 2018, the partnership had resulted in $385,000 in scholarships.[29][30] On September 2019, WWE and Full Sail University announced the expansion of their partnership as USA Network is set to host the promotion's NXT television series live from Full Sail University on a weekly basis beginning September 18, 2019.[31]

In 2015, the university announced a partnership with Wargaming and unveiled a user experience lab for conducting research projects.[32][33][34]

On April 14, 2019, Full Sail was included in an NBC News Investigates report on for-profit colleges that target veterans, and a subsequent follow up.[35] They featured an Iraq war veteran who was dissatisfied with his experience.[36]


The university moved to Winter Park in 1989.[37] Full Sail University's approximately 200-acre (81 ha) campus is located 8.6 miles (13.8 km) northeast of downtown Orlando. The campus has soundstages, a film backlot, and 110 studios.[38] An office building for teaching staff for the online degree program was leased in 2009.[39]

Full Sail University Backlot

In 2010 a new game studio was named "Blackmoor" (after a campaign in Dungeons & Dragons) in honor of Dave Arneson, who taught game design at the school from 1999 to 2008.[40] In November 2010, in partnership with ESPN, the school opened a new laboratory for research and development in studio technologies.[41] Two months later, approximately 200 Full Sail Online employees moved into the Gateway Center in Downtown Orlando.[42] 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; it was scheduled for completion in early 2012.[43] In July 2011, Full Sail acquired Lakeview Office Park in Orlando, with 225,550 square feet of office space across nine buildings.[44]

Full Sail University Fortress

In October 2018, Full Sail announced plans to construct an esports arena called "The Fortress".[45] The 11,200-square-foot venue opened in May 2019, serves as home of Full Sail University's esports team, Armada, and can accommodate up to 500 spectators.[46][47]


Full Sail's academic degree programs are primarily focused on audio, film and media production,[48] video game design,[49] animation[50] and other studies related to the media and entertainment industries.[51] Full Sail began offering coursework in creating augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) projects in 2016, housed in the campus's Fabrication Lab.[52][53][54] AR coursework is also supported by the Smart Lab, opened in May 2019, which provides AR, home network, and touchscreen technology for testing applications.[55]

Full Sail custom-built a learning management system (LMS) for 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.[9][56] In 2018, Full Sail partnered with Doghead Simulations to provide Rumii, a VR classroom app, to their undergraduates taking online classes.[57][58]

The university's Dan Patrick School of Sportscasting was established in 2017, with a new sportscasting degree program and instruction provided by sportscaster, radio personality, and actor Dan Patrick, among other industry leaders.[59]

The university is nationally accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).[10][60] 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.[61][62]

According to The New York Times in 2009, Full Sail had many of the same problems as other institutions in the for-profit college industry.[63] 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 loans in 2008.[63] The New York Times cited other Full Sail degree programs as having higher graduation rates, noting that the masters in entertainment business, "a yearlong program with a $36,245 tuition, graduated 80 percent of its students, nearly 63 percent of them on time".[63] 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 2009 article, however, The New York Times noted that Full Sail's students have posted criticisms of the school, including some that called Full Sail a "scam" because of its high costs, low placement, and difficulties with credit transfer.[63]

Full Sail has a 55% overall graduation rate and a 12.7% student loan default rate,[64] higher than the national student loan default rate of 11.3%,[65] , but lower than the average of all proprietary institutions, and lower than the average of both less than 2 years and 2-3 years public and private institutions.[66]

Awards and rankings[edit]

In 1989, 1990, and 1991, the Full Sail Center for the Recording Arts won Mix magazine's outstanding institutional achievement award for recording schools.[67]

In 2005, Rolling Stone called Full Sail "one of the five best music programs in the country".[68]

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, 2011,[69] and 2014.[70] Full Sail was recognized for its 21st-century best practices in distance learning by the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) in 2011,[71] and was the recipient of New Media Consortium Center for Excellence Award in 2011 and 2015.[72][73]

Full Sail was included in The Princeton Review's 2010 list of the nation's top fifty undergraduate video game design programs,[74] and ranked number 17 and number 18 in their 2016 and 2018 lists of top 25 graduate schools for game design, respectively.[75][76] Full Sail also ranked number 30 in The Princeton Review's list of undergraduate programs for game design.[77] In 2018, College Magazine ranked Full Sail number five in their list of the top 10 college for video game design.[78] In Tune Monthly included Full Sail in their 2017 and 2018 lists of the "best music schools".[79][80]

Notable people[edit]

Notable alumni include:

The school created the Full Sail University Hall of Fame to recognize accomplished alumni in 2009.[118]

Instructors at Full Sail have included Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Dave Arneson, who taught game design,[119] and Stedman Graham.[120][121]


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External links[edit]