State Legislature Approves Increase To Student Grant

The Florida legislature today approved a $9 million increase to the Florida Resident Access Grant (FRAG).

Lawmakers backed the decision made last week by the Conference Committee on Education Appropriations from both houses to increase FRAG, which will boost the grant total from $70.8 million to $79.8 million – a 12.7 percent increase. That’s good news for Florida residents attending private colleges in the Sunshine state.

About 28,000 Florida undergraduate students enrolled full-time at Florida’s four-year accredited private colleges and universities this fall and spring received FRAG. Of the 1,276 students at International College’s North Naples and Fort Myers campuses, 1,024 received the annual FRAG grant (or 80 percent).

International College is one of the 27 Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF) member institutions whose students are eligible for FRAG. Others include the University of Miami, Barry University and Stetson University.

Students initially were to receive $2,686 for the 2001 school year; however, a shortfall in the state’s budget caused the amount to be reduced to $2,474. The $9 million increase will restore the annual amount students receive next fall to $2,686, said John Van Gieson, ICUF spokesman.

Next fall, more than 29,000 students at the 27 ICUF colleges and universities are expected to be eligible for FRAG. The grant is available to U.S. Citizens and green card holders who have been Florida residents for at least one year.

International College President Terry McMahan said the increase is vital for students who rely on the money to help pay for their education. However, the increase doesn’t mean ICUF officials and members can now rest on their laurels.

“We’re not totally back to where we were before the legislature cut the budget, but it’s a great step in the right direction,” McMahan said.

Van Gieson characterized the FRAG increase as a triumph.

“We think this is a big victory for ICUF schools and students, because the increase to FRAG was higher than some of the other educational sectors,” he said. “We’re very pleased.”

ICUF will continue to work toward getting the annual FRAG award back to $2, 813 per student as it was during the 2000 school year. The organization will also continue its campaign efforts to reach the goal of getting the per student award level increased to $3,000.

The legislature began subsidizing private college tuition vouchers with state money in 1979 after lawmakers noticed that state colleges and universities were becoming overburdened. Initially, the FRAG award was $750 per student.

FRAG is crucial to the state, proponents argue, because it saves taxpayers money. The more students who attend private schools, the less taxpayers will need to help subsidize the state system. It costs more than $10,000 a year to educate a student at a state university. Taxpayers pay nearly $8,000 of those costs. FRAG saves taxpayers around $5,000 a year per student.
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