Amanda Clough: EASE vouchers key to realizing career of your dreams, giving back
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Graduates who benefit from EASE give back to the state.

I was born and raised in West Palm Beach and can attest to its natural beauty. Since I was a child, I have been captivated by the nature and landscape of South Florida’s East Coast and, as an adult, I have pursued jobs that contribute to its conservation.

In 2005, I earned my AA and entered the workforce, holding various positions at wildlife centers, including the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary and the Palm Beach Zoo. These positions only deepened my love for Florida’s natural landscape and wildlife.

Now in 2022, I find myself back in school pursuing my bachelor’s degree so I can achieve my dream of working for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Returning to school as a married adult who has been working full-time for over 20 years seemed far-fetched, especially when I considered the financial side of that commitment. Things changed when I learned about the EASE voucher.

EASE is the Effective Access to Student Education grant program. It is a student voucher for Florida residents to attend independent colleges and universities in the state.

Now, thanks to the support I receive from the EASE voucher, my family can afford to pay for my degree as I work toward a Bachelor of Science in Marine Resources and Management at Everglades University.

Pursuing my degree at Everglades University has allowed me the flexibility to continue working full-time at the Sandoway Discovery Center, where I manage animal collection and run both a volunteer program and teen mentorship program.

The EASE voucher invests in students who then graduate, enter the Florida workforce and contribute to the economy. Upon my graduation, I plan to give back to our state by using my skills to maintain Florida’s natural beauty.

Unfortunately, the EASE voucher is in jeopardy. This year, the Florida House has proposed to cut EASE funding that will eliminate or reduce the voucher for more than 6,400 students. Thousands of students will be left to pay more for their college tuition next year.

The 30 independent colleges and universities of Florida, where Florida residents are eligible for EASE vouchers to help pay tuition, accept more low-income students and more students over 25 than the State University System. Half of the students who attend independent, nonprofit schools are racial-ethnic minorities, and half of the students come from families who bring home less than $60,000 in annual income.

Florida’s low-income, minority and older adults will suffer the most from the proposed cuts to EASE.

I would understand the Legislature’s proposal if EASE was a poor investment by the state, but a recent study found that EASE has quite the opposite effect – for every $1 the state spends on an EASE student, it gets $2.5 back.

Graduates who benefit from EASE give back to the state. To use a term from biology, this exchange reflects mutualism, which is a mutually beneficial relationship in which both organisms benefit.

I am grateful for my EASE voucher and the opportunity it has provided me to pursue a career that will ensure our state’s nature and wildlife are protected.

Tell your legislator that you support the EASE voucher. It’s critical that Florida continues to fund the EASE voucher for students like me to receive an education and contribute to the state’s economy.


Amanda Clough is a student at Everglades University and a full-time employee at the Sandoway Discovery Center.

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