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Students Help Secure Grant Money with Grassroots Campaign

Published: January 21, 2010

Erika Hofelich ‘11 didn’t know much about the Florida Resident Access Grant other than it helped her attend the private university close to her home.

It wasn’t until she was selected as a fellow for the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida, and tasked with organizing a grassroots effort to ensure the grant’s viability, that Hofelich realized its importance.

“People have stereotypes that private schools are for rich, snobby kids,” Hofelich said. “But ICUF schools provide more funding to underprivileged families than state schools.”

Hofelich chose UT because of the small class size, the intimacy with the professors and the proximity to her home. That’s because Hofelich has a severe bleeding disorder that requires frequent blood infusions.

“The University of Tampa was perfect for me. I love that my professors understand my conditions and work to make sure I am still able to participate, even from a hospital room,” said Hofelich who is majoring in government and world affairs.

But to attend UT, Hofelich needed financial aid. As a bright student, she received several academic scholarships, and as a Florida resident who wanted to attend a private school, she qualified for the Florida Resident Access Grant.

When she started school, Hofelich said the grant was about $5,000. Now it’s almost half that. As an ICUF fellow, Hofelich is organizing a grassroots campaign starting at UT, to educate her classmates on the grant and to let their elected leaders know how important the funding is for pursuing their academic goals.

“If our representatives aren’t going to increase the funding, they should at least maintain it,” she said.

Each ICUF school has a fellow leading this grassroots campaign. The most active leaders, including Hofelich, were selected to go to Tallahassee Jan. 19 to meet with ICUF leaders and Florida politicians.

As part of her plan, Hofelich said she is writing press releases and drafting editorials for local media, organizing a letter writing campaign for UT’s Student Government and National Panhellenic Council, and reaching out to community groups in Tampa as a way to educate and bring attention to the issue.

Included in her talking points are the following:

  • ICUF Schools produce 31 percent of the total degrees in Florida for less than 1.3 percent of what the state spends in higher education.
  • Florida’s independent colleges and universities enrolled more than 32,000 Florida Resident Access Grant recipients last year.
  • Cuts to the Florida Resident Access Grant place increased pressure on Florida’s state universities and community colleges as our students would be forced to leave school and transfer to the public institutions where the state costs are much higher to the taxpayer.

“Erika is extremely dedicated to doing whatever it takes to draw attention to the importance of the Florida Resident Access Grant for University of Tampa students” said Stephanie Russell Holz, associate Dean of Students and director of the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement. Holz is Hofelich’s mentor for the program.

The daughter of a U.S. Air Force serviceman, Hofelich has traveled around the world and grown up with an interest in government affairs. She works part-time with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, a job she acquired with the help of UT’s Career Services, and hopes to work with the Department of Defense where she has already secured a summer internship.

“I’m interested in other cultures, travel and I have a profound admiration for the military,” Hofelich said. “Because of my health, I can’t serve. This is the next best thing.”

She said her volunteer work with ICUF is giving her the hands-on experience she needs for a successful career.

“This is giving me real-world experience,” she said. “ICUF schools provide more than just an education to people who attend them.”

Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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