In Florida, there are 30 Florida-based, private, not for profit, regionally accredited colleges and universities comprising the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF). Hodges University is proud to be an ICUF member institution. There are almost 160,000 students attending ICUF schools, 46,000 of whom are EASE-eligible. These bachelor’s degree seeking students are attending ICUF schools to further their careers, and will directly give back to our state because they live and work here.
The Florida House is proposing to cut the EASE voucher program by $36.4 million. That will eliminate vouchers for nearly 13,000 students. Half of the students attending ICUF schools are racial-ethnic minorities, with many coming from low-income families. With the Florida House’s proposed cut, nearly 7,500 students who would lose their EASE voucher are people of color. At Hodges University, 45 percent of our students identify as Hispanic, and we are the only federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) based in this region.
The Florida Senate understands the return on investment on the EASE grant vouchers, and has proposed to restore the funding level, and even increase it, to $3,500 per voucher, so that students can continue pursuing their career goals. EASE is an efficient economic development driver by helping provide access to the education and training that produces the professionals our state needs. How efficient is it? EASE represents less than 5% of the state funding support for degree production in the state of Florida yet ICUF schools award 305 degrees per million dollars invested compared to just 41 for the State University System.
To give you a clearer picture of students at Hodges University, you’ll find that 45 percent identify as Hispanic, nearly 66 percent are female and 66 percent of our students overall identify as minority. Over 13 percent of our students are military veterans. Nearly 17 percent are enrolled in our English as a Second Language program. Our students tend to be working adults supporting their families; 80 percent of our students are over the age of 23, with the average age being 33. Nearly 60 percent of our students attend full time while also holding a full-time job.
Overall, 82 percent of Hodges University students receive some financial aid in the form of scholarships, grants and loans.
In our 31-year history, we have educated, trained, and graduated over 12,000 professionals who help our economy grow and diversify.
We ask the Florida House not to balance the budget on the backs of the 13,000 students who would lose their EASE voucher.
Dr. John Meyer is president of Hodges University, a private, non-profit organization.