Many of us receive something called the Florida Resident Access Grant (FRAG) on our financial aid packet, but how many of us actually know what it is? Who cares, it’s free money, right? In reality however, that money is certainly not guaranteed, and it may actually be at risk. The FRAG is a tuition-assistance grant created by the Florida State Legislature to increase opportunities for Floridians seeking a college degree. However, since the grant is given to us by the Legislature, that also means the Legislature can take it away. This is becoming an even greater possibility as Legislatures across the country are looking to make budget cuts in these rough economic times.
In case the “free money” didn’t already get you, let me first take a moment to explain why the FRAG is important, not just to students, but to all of Florida. The Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF) is basically a grouping of private universities in Florida. Last year, ICUF institutions awarded 17,632 bachelor degrees. That is 26% of all Florida’s baccalaureate degrees, and nearly 47% of those degrees were in the critical fields of Education, Health Care, Engineering, Computer Science and Biology/Biomedical. ICUF institutions also awarded 38% of all graduate degrees and 53% of all first professional degrees in Florida. ICUF institutions enroll more than 32,000 FRAG recipients, and the FRAG allows many of these students to go to college. Of those FRAG recipients, more than half are the first in their family to go to college, and about 46% are minority students. ICUF Institutions as a whole also contribute more than $15 billion to Florida’s economy each year, and actually save taxpayers money. If the almost 50,000 Florida undergraduate students at ICUF institutions were to attend state universities, it would cost the Florida taxpayers and the State budget an additional $482 million. And the best part of all is, they do this all with 1.3% of the higher education budget to fund FRAG.
So you might be asking yourself, “What can I do to help?” All you need to do is send a short email, and it could potentially mean saving scholarships for thousands of students. Mike Haridopolos is currently the President of Florida State Senate, and he is also a Stetson alumnus! Please take just a few minutes to send Mike an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell him you are a fellow Hatter and be sure to thank him for his service to our state (regardless of your political ideology). Then take a minute to tell him why the FRAG is important to you, and urge him not to cut it. Could you imagine the impact it could have if everyone sent him a short email? We might even get more scholarships! If you would like to help even more, write down a short paragraph about why the FRAG is important to you and drop it off at the Student Government Association office. February 7th and 8th I will personally be traveling to Tallahassee to lobby for you guys and I will take your stories with me to Mike, as well as Alan Hays, Stetson’s representative for the Florida State Senate District 20, and Fred Costello, Stetson’s representative for the Florida State House of Representatives District 26. Please take the time to help out if you can!