Published: Apr 07, 2011 3:59 AM EDT
Updated: Apr 07, 2011 12:48 AM EDT

NAPLES, Fla.- State scholarships that pay to send Florida students to in-state private universities are on the chopping block. The Florida Resident Access Grant provides $83 million dollars to help lure in high achieving in-state students. Lawmakers could soon slash those funds in order to balance the budget. But private schools say that cut could cost taxpayers even more.

For Ave Maria undergrads, college doesn't come cheap. A full course load adds up to about $26,000 a year.

"Rooming costs a lot. Then there's food and classes themselves," AMU freshman, and FRAG recipient Cheryl Moleski said.

Florida's FRAG Grant makes paying tuition at the state's private universities a little easier. This year, about 35,000 students got around $2,500 to help with tuition. The grant ended up costing Florida $83 million dollars. But Ave Maria says it's a bargain compared to what the state would pay those same students to attend public universities with a full Bright Futures scholarship.

"If you take all of the 35,000 students and send them to the state at $5-6,000 per student, multiply that. We're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars," AMU VP of Academic Affairs John Sites said.

Last year, the grant was partially paid for through federal stimulus dollars. But with those funds dried up, the scholarship money is in limbo.

"Whether or not the state of Florida, which is facing a very large budget deficit, can make that up, I don't know. We all think there's going to be some cut. What we want to do now is keep the cut to a minimum," Sites said on Wednesday.

For the 58% of Florida private school students in need of financial aid, it's a cut that could leave them questioning whether private is worth the price.

"I'm sure I would. I'm sure there's lots of other people here, too, where that would really impact if they would come back," Moleski said.

Each student could lose anywhere from $300 to a couple thousand dollars. The House and Senate will be debating the issue as part of the budget this legislative session.