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Colleges

FSU boosters think outside scholarship box

Club may save $2.5M buying athletes' tuition in bulk at today's costs.

By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published October 28, 2005

TALLAHASSEE - The Florida State booster club, finding an innovative way to manage costs and save money, has spent about $3.7-million to purchase 350 scholarships through the Florida Prepaid College Foundation that will be used for athletes during the next 14 years.

The group expects to save a minimum of $250,000 by shrewdly locking in last April a block of tuition-only scholarships for in-state students at today's price. Depending on how high tuition costs rise, the savings could be far more, perhaps $2.5-million, the boosters said.

"The whole idea was to bridge the gap between the challenge of fully endowing all our scholarships and when we get them fully endowed," said former Boosters chairman Bob Fohl, crediting the group's Inner Council - a handful of former student athletes - for thinking "outside the box" and suggesting this approach.

Usually a specific individual must be named as the beneficiary at the time of entering the prepaid plan, but Seminole Boosters, a non-profit entity, has partnered with the foundation and is allowed to name the beneficiaries later.

Such a deal also allows for the purchase of contracts in stages. As long as it makes sense and cents and until a soon-to-begin campaign to endow all athletic scholarships is complete, Seminole Boosters will buy an additional 25 scholarships each year, Fohl said.

"We've done this for other organizations, but this is first time we have done with athletic (boosters) for a state university," said F. Philip Blank, the vice president of the Foundation. "It's ironic that this program had its origins years ago, in 1987, and the person in the House of Representatives who was responsible for shepherding this legislation through was none other than (current FSU president) T.K. Wetherell."

Blank said other athletic groups should be paying attention to the possibilities.

"I hope other universities see this and see the wisdom of this from all the angles because it's so good for the kids," he said. While university presidents are trying to loosen restraints on increasing tuition, Blank doesn't see this program causing any problems for the Foundation, the presidents or the Legislature.

"The Foundation has met several times with president Wetherell and he is keenly aware that we, the board, can sustain reasonable rates of increases ad infinitum without affecting the financial viability of this program," Blank said. "I don't subscribe to the arguments of some folks in higher education that the existence of a prepaid program interferes with their ability to raise prices. As with any issue, there's a middle ground. There always is and that's where the Legislature lands."

[Last modified October 28, 2005, 01:36:14]


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