Students should have the freedom to choose the education best suited to their needs. Attending an institution which allows them to manage their responsibilities and priorities has proven essential in completing their education and to their future job success.
For decades, Florida has kept its best and brightest students in Florida thanks to the EASE Grant, an access grant provided to Florida resident students who choose to attend one of the 30 private, not-for-profit Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF).
For Florida, talent remains the currency for workforce development and a prosperous economy. As our state keeps growing and continues grappling with the impact of COVID, ensuring Florida students are prepared to fill critical jobs is the key to recovery and continued economic development.
Keiser University and the other ICUF schools have a proven track record of success and have been vital to Florida’s economic growth for approximately 100 years. In service to Florida and the companies that call it home, these schools are leaders in providing the critical workforce talent vital to our economy.
This commitment was never more evident than during the COVID pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, Keiser University students and alumni, along with other ICUF schools, have been actively involved in the battle against COVID.
Since the start of the pandemic, Keiser University students and graduates in most major Florida communities joined those from Saint Leo University, Barry University, the University of Miami, and others on the front lines of recovery to address the needs of Floridians by providing testing, vaccinations, counseling, telemedicine, and other critical services.
Meeting employers' needs
A recent report by the Florida Hospital Association and the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida projects our state will face a shortfall of approximately 60,000 nurses by 2035.
ICUF schools are working diligently with state leaders and hospital systems throughout Florida to address this shortfall. Seventeen ICUF schools, many with multiple campuses, offer nursing degrees and are responsible for producing half of the state’s graduate level nurses.
Keiser University was the No. 1 producer of nurses in Florida who passed the NCLEX in 2020, and, along with several other independent universities, is filling critical employment needs for hospitals and healthcare providers throughout the state.
ICUF schools are also well known for their innovation and use of technology that is driving Florida’s economy forward. ICUF schools produce some of the state’s best talent in aerospace and engineering, informational technology, research and development, and STEM advancements. As the needs of Florida’s employers grow, ICUF graduates continue to step up to meet these challenges.
More than 50% of ICUF undergraduates are from minority populations and many come from economically challenged backgrounds. Many work fulltime while pursuing their college degrees. Keiser University was recently recognized for this long-standing commitment to helping students attain careers when it was named No. 1 in Social Mobility in Florida and Number 5 in the nation, by U.S. News and World Report.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce has referenced the importance of a highly skilled labor force as one of the factors that will continue to drive the state’s economic future. Considering that ICUF schools award 20% of all bachelor’s degrees in Florida, the EASE grant remains crucial to the development of our state’s economic success.
ICUF schools, and our graduates, have proven their steadfast commitment to Florida. These students stay in Florida and become contributing members of their communities and our growing economy.
Please, continue to support ICUF students by supporting the EASE Grant, and encourage your legislators to continue funding this essential program.
Belinda Keiser is vice chancellor of Keiser University and board member of Enterprise Florida.
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Support for Florida’s private college students contributes to state’s economic success | Opinion