TALLAHASSEE - The new enrollment period for Florida's popular Prepaid College Plan opens today and expects to count its millionth customer during the three-month sign-up period.
Florida's prepaid program, with $5.3-billion in the bank, is larger than the other 19 in the country combined. It has enrolled about 975,000 families since it began in 1988, and about 61,000 current Florida college students - almost one in seven - already have their courses paid for.
The plan allows families to buy contracts in lump sums or monthly payments. The money is pooled in long-term investments and those earnings are aimed to keep pace with the cost of tuition years later when a child is ready to begin college.
If the child goes to a private college, the program pays the same value to that school. If the child doesn't go to college, the family gets its money back with some interest.
Since the program started, 125,000 prepaid students have enrolled in college.
Florida Prepaid College Board chairman Stanley G. Tate says the plan makes a college education affordable for many low- and middle-income families.
"A parent can't lose," he said.
Tate said he has told state legislators the Prepaid Plan cannot handle excessive tuition increases.
Legislators, Bush and the state university system's Board of Governors haven't settled next year's tuition rates.
The governor wants "to look at (tuition) in a very broad way and from the perspectives of all of the people who will be affected by it," spokeswoman Jill Bratina said.