Full Sail University
Full Sail Real World Education
|Location||Winter Park, Florida, FL, U.S.|
|Campus||Suburban (191 acres)|
Full Sail University is a for-profit university in Winter Park, Florida. The school was founded in 1979 in Dayton, Ohio as Full Sail Recording Workshop. Full Sail relocated to Florida in 1980, 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. The school is partly owned by TA Associates, a private equity firm.
Full Sail is not regionally accredited, but is nationally accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) to award associate's, bachelor's degrees, and master's degrees in audio, film, design, computer animation, business, and other fields. The school offers 49 degree programs and 2 graduate certificates and lists a student population of around 16,100.
Full Sail was founded by Jon Phelps in Dayton, Ohio in 1979. Operating under the name “Full Sail Recording Workshop” at that time, the school was established to train students on the production side of entertainment and music. The curriculum was solely focused on recording arts at first, consisting of courses for students to learn how to become audio engineers. The school relocated to Orlando, Florida in 1980 and new courses were added to the core recording arts program. Later that decade, coursework expanded beyond audio-only programs—beginning with the addition of a film program in 1988. In 1989, Full Sail moved to its current location outside of Winter Park, Florida, in unincorporated Orange County; the following year, it was accredited to grant specialized associate's degrees.
Full Sail began to receive notice within the audio industry for its programs, and for three years in a row, 1989–1991, the school won Mix magazine's TEC (Technical Excellence and Creativity) award for Best Recording School/Program.
Enrollment doubled between 1989 and 1991, at a time of increased interest in film and media studies. 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. Between 1995 and 1999, specialized associate's degrees or associate's 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.
The school began to receive notice in the early 2000s within the recording arts industry for its programs, with Rolling Stone naming Full Sail as “one of the five best music programs in the country” in its 2005 book, Schools that Rock: The Rolling Stone College Guide. The first bachelor’s degree program, a Bachelor of Science degree in entertainment business, was made available at the school in 2005. In 2007, the first master's degree program was offered—also in entertainment business. Online degree programs began in 2007 as well—the first of which was an online adaptation of the existing Entertainment Business Master of Science.
In 2005, the school launched its first bachelor's degree program, in Entertainment Business. In 2007, the school introduced its first master's program, also in Entertainment Business, launched a Graphic Design Associate of Science Degree, and announced its first online degree program — an online version of the Entertainment Business Master's Degree. Full Sail's online offerings have expanded since that time to include fields not represented among their campus degrees, including Internet Marketing and Sports Management, as well as online versions of their campus degrees, such as Web Design & Development and Computer Animation.
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. 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 2078 linear ft.
As the university grew in size and student body between 2006 and 2011, the curriculum and degree programs were broadened as well, adding programs such as a bachelor of science in sports marketing and media and a master of science degree in game design.
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. Later that year, World Wrestling Entertainment began filming all episodes of its internet show WWE NXT as well as the television shows for its developmental territory "NXT Wrestling" at Full Sail University. Full Sail is also home to the U.S. syndicated morning television show The Daily Buzz, which like Full Sail also began in Dayton, Ohio before moving to Orlando.
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.
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.
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. Two months later, approximately 200 Full Sail Online administration and support team employees moved into the Gateway Center in Downtown Orlando. 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.
Full Sail University is an entertainment media institution offering on-campus and online degrees, including 2 graduate certificates, 2 associate degrees, 25 bachelor's degrees, and 8 master's degrees. Academic degree programs are primarily focused on audio, film and media production, video game design, animation and other studies related to the media and entertainment industries. Over 70% of students and graduates have used financial aid to cover some or all of their education expenses. Students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before applying for student loans through the university.
The college’s education is accelerated, typically completed in half the time of a traditional four-year college — associate's programs are 12 to 13 months long, bachelor's programs are 20 to 36 months long, and master's programs are 12 months long. Degree programs begin monthly. Courses are generally four weeks in duration, with students taking an average of two courses at a time.
According to The New York Times, Full Sail has many of the same problems as other institutions in the for-profit college industry. 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. 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." 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." 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.
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, 21st century best practices in distance learning by the United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) in 2011, and was the recipient of a 2011 New Media Consortium Center for Excellence award.
In 2007, Full Sail University offered its first online degree program, a master's degree in Entertainment Business. Currently, the school offers a total of 22 online degree programs: seven master's degrees, thirteen bachelor's degrees, and two graduate certificate programs. Nine of the online degree programs are directly based on campus-based degree programs, and the other thirteen are exclusive to Full Sail University Online. Online students at Full Sail utilize much of the same software and creative tools students use in campus-based programs. Additionally, 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. The curriculum used for Full Sail University Online is generated utilizing the same educators and advisory boards as campus-based programs.
Although the university is not regionally accredited, it is nationally accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). 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.
The college does not have on-campus dormitories. A housing department coordinates housing and roommate arrangements with approximately 50 apartment complexes located within a 5-mile radius of the campus, most of which are within walking distance.
Students participate in 25 different clubs and organizations oriented toward entertainment and media industries, including student chapters of AES, AIGA, Grammy U, IGDA, MEISA and DECA. Other clubs include the Entertainment Networking Society, Gay–Straight Alliance, International Film Society and Veterans Group. Students generally manage the groups, with an instructor providing support.
More than 36,000 alumni have graduated from Full Sail University as of 2011. Among the most notable alumni are Gary Rizzo, Oscar Award winner for Best Achievement in the Sound Mixing category for his work on the film Inception; Sebastian Krys, eight-time Latin Grammy winner and four-time Grammy winner; three-time Grammy winner Phil Tan, Darren Lynn Bousman, screen writer and director whose credits include director of Saw II, Saw III, Saw IV, and Repo! The Genetic Opera; and JD Harmeyer, Head Media Producer on The Howard Stern Show. Notable graduates are recognized during an annual awards event named the Full Sail University Hall of Fame.
On April 20, 2009, Full Sail marked its 30th anniversary with the opening of the Full Sail University Hall of Fame. The event included testimonials from Neil Portnow (president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences), filmmaker Kevin Smith, recording artist Anthony Hamilton, and others. Six graduates were inducted into the Hall of Fame including Sebastian Krys (producer/engineer, four-time Grammy Award winner, seven-time Latin Grammy Award winner), Gary Rizzo (sound re-recording mixer and Oscar award winner for Best Achievement in Sound), and Phil Tan (mix engineer and three-time Grammy Award winner). In June 2010, the second set of inductees was selected and added to the Hall of Fame including Leslie Brathwaite (mix engineer and Grammy award winner), Marc Fishman (sound re-recording mixer, Emmy winner), and Martin "Tike" Santos (live sound engineer, Paul McCartney).
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