Amanda Gonzalez Garcia: Florida budget cuts leave students with un-‘EASE’

Budget cut
Tell your lawmakers to stop balancing the budget on the backs of students by funding the EASE voucher.
Amanda Gonzalez Garcia

The Florida House passed a budget for the upcoming year that cuts my Effective Access to Student Education (EASE) voucher, which helps me pay college tuition. This budget cut affects nearly 13,000 students like me, Florida residents who are working hard to earn their college degrees.

Tell your lawmakers to stop balancing the budget on the backs of students by funding the EASE voucher. Funding the EASE voucher will help students to finish college and pursue their dreams.

I was eight years old when I moved from Cuba to Florida. In Cuba, receiving a college education was extremely rare; that’s why my family moved to Florida. My parents wanted me and my brother to live in a place that had abundant opportunities to attend a college or university.

With EASE in danger, I see that opportunity slowly diminishing.

I went to college with the understanding that I had received the EASE voucher. Suddenly, the Florida House is changing the rules of the game and could leave me struggling to find ways to fill the gap.

I currently attend Barry University, where I am pursuing a double major in Criminology and Photography. My dream is to be a public servant. One day, I want to work for a government institution as a crime scene photographer or investigator.

Barry University is helping me achieve my dream. I decided to attend Barry after realizing how flexible, but challenging, the institution is and seeing the high-quality education opportunities Barry offers to students like me.

The EASE voucher pays $2,841 toward my tuition every year. Students in Florida who choose to attend independent, nonprofit colleges are eligible for EASE to help pay tuition. This school choice voucher helps students like me choose the school that best meets their needs.

In the more than four decades since EASE was established, hundreds of thousands of students, many of whom come from low-income families or are people of color, have used the voucher to help pay for tuition. Today, nearly 50% of students who depend on EASE come from low-income families. Half the students who depend on EASE are people of color.

The Florida House budget cuts $36.4 million from the EASE program, which will eliminate vouchers for 12,826 students in Florida currently attending independent, nonprofit colleges. The very students who need our support the most stand to lose the funding that helps them pay their college tuition.

We’ve all faced many challenges over the last year. We’re just starting to get back on track.

To the members of the Florida House, don’t balance the budget on the backs of students. Help students like me stay on track, finish our degrees and launch our careers. The EASE voucher helps me chase my dreams. I don’t know what I’ll do without it.

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Amanda Gonzalez Garcia is a student studying Criminology and Photography at Barry University in Miami.

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