Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Scott-O-Meter

Preserve Florida Resident Access Grants

"Since almost 50 percent of the recipients of FRAG (Florida Resident Access Grants) are the first in their families to attend college, I am committed to preserving how important this program is in creating access to success in Florida."


Updates

College student grants preserved

During the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, Rick Scott promised to continue Florida Resident Access Grants, a program that gives tuition assistance to students who attend certain private colleges in Florida.

Florida undergraduates can qualify for FRAG grants if they attend an eligible private, non-profit Florida college or university and meet specific criteria, including maintaining high enough GPA.

Noting that almost 50 percent of the recipients of such grants are the first in their families to attend college, Scott said, "I am committed to preserving how important this program is in creating access to success in Florida," he wrote on his campaign website in 2010.

Scott's promise wasn't specific as to the total dollars or number of students served. He only promised to "preserve" the program.

During the 2010-11 budget year -- reflecting levels approved by Scott's predecessor, Charlie Crist -- FRAG disbursed $83 million in grants. The money went to 39,427 students who received an average of $2,109. That was lower than some years of Crist's tenure, when the economy was booming.

From point, the total amounts disbursed have fallen, as have the average amount per student. However, the total number of students served has increased. Specifically:

• For 2011-12, FRAG disbursed $73.6 million, averaging $1,734 for about 42,500 students.

• For 2012-13, FRAG disbursed $75 million, averaging $1,752 for nearly 43,000 students.

• For 2013-14, we don't have final disbursement totals, but FRAG received $89.7 million in appropriations. That's notable because it would put the program on track to disburse more for 2013-14 than it did during Crist's final year in office. (Disbursments are typically very close to the amount appropriated by the Legislature, said Cheryl Etters, Department of Education spokeswoman.)

This was not a tough promise for Scott to keep, because he simply pledged to "preserve" the program. But he has indeed achieved that goal. Initially, the amount disbursed under the program dropped below what it was in Crist's final year, but for the most recent year, it has exceeded what it was in Crist's final year. We rate this a Promise Kept.

Sources:

Florida Department of Education, Florida Student Scholarship and Grant Program, 2009-10 through 2012-13

Interview, Cheryl Etters, Florida Department of Education spokeswoman, Nov. 26, 2013

Scott increases budget for private college grants

 Gov. Rick Scott wants to preserve a program that gives money to students to attend dozens of private colleges within Florida. That's the Florida Resident Access Grant program, started in 1979.

During the campaign, Scott said on his website: "Since almost 50 percent of the recipients of FRAG (Florida Resident Access Grants) are the first in their families to attend college, I am committed to preserving how important this program is in creating access to success in Florida."

The Florida Department of Education website describes FRAG as tuition assistance to Florida undergraduate students attending an eligible private, non-profit Florida college or university.

Among the requirements: students must be Florida residents, not have previously received a baccalaureate degree, enroll for at least 12 credit hours per term and not be enrolled in a program leading to a degree in theology or divinity. Students can receive the award for a maximum of nine semesters or 14 quarters. According to the 2010-11 state budget, "Funds are provided to support 34,580 students at $2,425 per student."

About 30 schools are eligible to participate in 2010-11. A 2009-10 report stated that FRAG is not related to a student's financial need.

In his two-year budget plan released Feb. 7, 2011, Scott proposed about $86.2 million for 2010-11 and about $84.9 million in 2012-13 from general revenue. That's a drop of about $1.4 million between the first year and the second year.

But it's still an increase for both years compared to the 2010-11 budget under his predecessor, Gov. Charlie Crist. That budget shows about $58 million from general revenue and $25.9 million from the federal grants trust fund for a total of about $83.9 million.

A chart on page 37 of a financial assistance report to the education commissioner in October 2010 shows that between 2005-06 and 2009-10, the number of students receiving the grant climbed to 38,674 in 2009-10 -- the highest in the five years. Students that year received an average grant of about $2,175.

During that same stretch of five years, appropriations dropped to a low point of $84.2 million in the final year, while the highest year was a $102.6 million appropriation. That means that Scott's budget proposals of about $86 million and $85 million are higher than the most recent year, but not as high as some previous years when the economy was booming.

Scott promised to preserve Florida Resident Access Grants. By slightly increasing the funding in his budget proposal compared to the current fiscal year, he has taken an important step. But at this point his budget is merely a proposal -- and FRAG has had dwindling appropriations in recent years. We rate this promise In The Works.

Sources:

Rick Scott for Governor, campaign website, 2010

Gov. Rick Scott, Budget, Released Feb. 7, 2011

Florida House, 2010-11 budget

Florida Department of Education, Office of Student Financial Assistance Annual Report to the Commissioner, 2009-10

Florida Department of Education, 2010-11 Florida Resident Access Grant Program Eligible Institutions

Florida Department of Education, William L. Boyd, IV, Florida Resident Access Grant Program Fact Sheet, Accessed Feb. 10, 2011

Sun-Sentinel, "Use higher education as key to economic development," Dec. 8, 2010

Interview, Florida Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters, Feb. 10, 2011

Interview, Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida President Ed Moore, Feb. 10, 2010