The Florida Senate Committee on Postsecondary Education, chaired by Republican State Senator Erin Grall, of Vero Beach, recently introduced and passed Senate Bill 7032, creating the Graduation Alternative to Traditional Education (GATE) Program, GATE Scholarship Program, and GATE Student Success Incentive Fund.
All three programs create an alternative pathway to career credentials for students 16 to 21 years of age who have discontinued enrollment in traditional high school programs.
- Not have earned a standard high school diploma or a high school equivalency diploma.
- Be a Florida resident.
- Be concurrently enrolled in an adult secondary education program and a career education program at a college, career center, or a charter technical career center.
- Be 16 to 21 years of age.
- Select a Career and Technical Education Pathway or Program.
Students enrolled in the GATE Program are exempt from the payment of registration, tuition, laboratory, and examination fees. Additionally, instructional materials must be made available free of charge.
“Some students may have challenges in completing the requirements for a high school diploma in a traditional setting, but everyone has gifts and talents that can contribute to their community,” said Senator Grall. “The GATE program will provide students who have left high school before graduation the opportunity to access high-quality workforce education programs that can help them earn industry-recognized credentials that lead to good jobs, at no cost to the students.”
The bill creates the GATE Scholarship Program to support schools and other educational facilities providing the GATE Program. The GATE Scholarship Program will reimburse eligible entities for registration, tuition, laboratory, and examination fees and related instructional materials costs for students enrolled in the GATE Program.
“Everyone who wants to work hard has the opportunity to prosper in the free state of Florida. It is important that we have resources in place to help young people, who have made the decision to leave a traditional high school, re-engage in work and educational opportunities and build careers that are needed in our growing communities,” said Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican. “Thankfully, over the last several years we have seen a decrease in the number of teens who are not in school or working. However, Florida has a job for anyone who wants one and the earlier we can reach a teen who has left high school the better chance that young person has to thrive in a meaningful career.”
The bill establishes the GATE Program Student Success Incentive fund to reward school districts and colleges for the success of students participating in the GATE Program. Unless otherwise specified in the state budget, each institution must be provided $750 per student who obtains a standard high school diploma or high school equivalency diploma and $1,000 per student earning career certificates or credentials.
All funding for the Graduation Alternative to Traditional Education (GATE) Program is subject to legislative appropriation.