At the end of every legislative session, recaps include what passed, what didn’t, what was funded, what was cut, and what was eliminated. One of the cuts this year was to the Effective Access to Student Education (EASE) Grant.
The House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee proposed an 18.8% cut to EASE, which did pass. The result? The EASE Grant award has been reduced from $3,500 to $2,841 per student. That’s a reduction of $659 per student, which will negatively impact over 130,000 students.
The EASE Grant was created specifically as an economic development investment that saves taxpayers money, fuels enrollment growth, retention and degree completions in Florida, and supports under-served students and students with financial needs.
While the EASE grant may not seem like much, consider that it’s a tuition assistance award that helps students who attend strong and viable Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF). There are 29 private, colleges and universities in this system, which are all regionally accredited just like the public state colleges and universities. (www.ICUF.org)
How does the EASE Grant reduce the tax burden that we, as Florida citizens pay?
Consider this: the public tuition subsidy costs taxpayers for students attending a state college more than double, and for students attending a state university, more than four times the $3,500 available to ICUF students. EASE is essentially a school choice program for higher education that has been a resounding success for so many Floridians for over 40 years. Why wouldn’t the state want to leverage the private sector to address Florida’s higher education access needs?
For these very reasons AIF (Associated Industries of Florida) suggested funding the student growth to keep the EASE at $3,500 per student, stating in its 2019 Session Priority press release that EASE “demonstrates one of the strongest returns on investment for the state’s higher education system.”
ICUF institutions are private institutions in the public service. The ICUF schools:
Receive less than 3% of the state’s higher education budget
Award approximately 25% of Florida’s bachelor degrees
Award 40% of all graduate degrees in the state (at no cost to the state)
Graduate nearly 40,000 skilled students each year
These employers contribute $5.9 billion each year in the state’s economy and have 38,000 employees. That’s a significant contribution to the vitality of Florida’s economy.
At Hodges University, we are laser-focused on educating and training the very professionals our region needs, from business, technology, mental health, criminal justice and legal studies to nursing, paramedic and physical therapist assistant. We focus on adult learners who are balancing the demands of a full-time job and family while earning their degree. Because of that, our programs are accelerated with monthly class starts that are held in the evening, weekends and online to better serve our students. Overall, 12 percent of our student population are military. Additionally, we are a federally-designated Hispanic-serving institution.
Our institutional job placement rate after graduation is 93%. We join with the over 130,000 students statewide in the fight to restore the EASE Grant to $3,500. It’s a proven and wise investment for taxpayers, and a true economic benefit for our state.
Dr. John Meyer is the president of Hodges University, and a two-time graduate of the institution.