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New Legislation Lowers Cost of Florida Prepaid College Plans

The Office for Student Financial Affairs offers many financial aid options to provide students with resources and information to understand the rights incurred when they receive financial aid. The University of Florida office is located in Criser Hall on Union Road.
The Office for Student Financial Affairs offers many financial aid options to provide students with resources and information to understand the rights incurred when they receive financial aid. The University of Florida office is located in Criser Hall on Union Road.

Current and future families with a Florida Prepaid College Plan may receive refund benefits, price reductions and waived enrollment fees beginning Sept. 20.

As of this date, payment reductions will be applied to Prepaid Plans and refund checks will be processed and mailed within four to six weeks after, according to the Florida Prepaid College Board website, MyFloridaPrepaid.com.

Only plans purchased since 2008 that include a tuition differential fee component are affected.

According to a UF Student Government breakdown of student fees, tuition differential fees are used to expand course offerings, decrease class sizes and increase academic advising. Additionally, 30 percent of the fees are given back to students through financial aid.

For the first time ever, the board will now offer a one-year Florida University Plan that allows families to purchase up to four years at a state university in one-year increments as their budgets afford them, said board spokeswoman Shannon Colavecchio.

One-year plans start at $43 per month, and the board is waiving the $50 enrollment fee for anyone who purchases a plan between Oct. 15 and the end of the year, she said.

“This is a historic moment for Florida Prepaid,” Colavecchio said.

Earlier this month, the board announced a 50 percent price reduction from last year's prepaid plans after Gov. Rick Scott signed House Bill 851.

This new law, which became active on July 1, restricts the maximum increase of tuition differential fees to 6 percent for the University of Florida and Florida State University, with no increase for any other state universities.

Before the bill was signed, the tuition differential fee could increase by up to 15 percent for all state universities, according to MyFloridaPrepaid.com.

About 18,000 families are expected to receive the refunds and more than 22,000 families will see a reduction in their monthly payments, according to the Florida Prepaid College Foundation’s website.

The Florida Prepaid College Program was created by Stanley G. Tate in 1987 to provide families with an affordable means to save for their children's future college educations, according to the website.

“Probably one of the best benefits of Florida Prepaid is that it’s guaranteed by the state,” Colavecchio said. “You’re going to get out of it exactly what you put in.”

This past year, a plan's cost was nearly $54,000, but beginning Oct. 15 the new law will allow newborn plans to cost approximately $27,000 less, the foundation’s website said.

“We’re very pleased at the legislation. It makes our plan much more acceptable to not just middle-income families, but frankly, to some of our lower-income families,” Colavecchio said.

University of Florida’s Director of Student Financial Affairs Rick Wilder said the plan gives Florida families more options.

“Some families... might find that the Florida Prepaid Plan is a better option for them because they’re locking in. It’s all set up to pay, and sometimes that works better for them,” Wilder said.

Out of 45,995 UF students who received general financial aid in 2013, more than 11,600 students received Florida Prepaid, Wilder said.

“I think it’s really dependent on what families decide to do based on all the options that they have for funding their educational expenses,” he said.

Fourth-year UF student Rachel Roth is glad her parents purchased a Florida 529 Plan more than 18 years ago.

“I do see a benefit because families who formerly couldn't afford (a plan) may be able to now,” Roth said. “I didn’t have to worry about expenses while I was in college.”

When enrollment begins on Oct. 15, families will have the opportunity to purchase a 4-year Florida University Plan without any change in plan coverage for $173 a month, or a 2 + 2 Florida Plan, which covers two years at a state or community college and two years at a university, for $136 a month.

These price reductions are half of what they were the last enrollment period, Colavecchio said.

“Our mission has always been to open the door to college and college students for more families, and so we see this legislation as a benefit to that mission," she said.

Christy is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.