(1) There is created a Florida Private Student Assistance Grant Program. The program shall be administered by the participating institutions in accordance with rules of the State Board of Education.
(2)(a) Florida private student assistance grants from the State Student Financial Assistance Trust Fund may be made only to full-time degree-seeking students who meet the general requirements for student eligibility as provided in s. 1009.40, except as otherwise provided in this section. Such grants shall be awarded for the amount of demonstrated unmet need for tuition and fees and may not exceed an amount equal to the average tuition and other registration fees for 30 credit hours at state universities plus $1,000 per academic year, or as specified in the General Appropriations Act, to any applicant. A demonstrated unmet need of less than $200 shall render the applicant ineligible for a Florida private student assistance grant. Recipients of such grants must have been accepted at a baccalaureate-degree-granting independent nonprofit college or university, which is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and which is located in and chartered as a domestic corporation by the state. No student may receive an award for more than the equivalent of 9 semesters or 14 quarters of full-time enrollment, except as otherwise provided in s. 1009.40(3).
(b) A student applying for a Florida private student assistance grant shall be required to apply for the Pell Grant. The Pell Grant entitlement shall be considered when conducting an assessment of the financial resources available to each student.
(c) Priority in the distribution of grant moneys shall be given to students with the lowest total family resources, in accordance with a nationally recognized system of need analysis. Using the system of need analysis, the department shall establish a maximum expected family contribution. An institution may not make a grant from this program to a student whose expected family contribution exceeds the level established by the department. An institution may not impose additional criteria to determine a student’s eligibility to receive a grant award.
(d) Each participating institution shall report, to the department by the established date, the eligible students to whom grant moneys are disbursed each academic term. Each institution shall also report to the department necessary demographic and eligibility data for such students.
(3) Based on the unmet financial need of an eligible applicant, the amount of a Florida private student assistance grant must be between $200 and the average cost of tuition and other registration fees for 30 credit hours at state universities plus $1,000 per academic year or the amount specified in the General Appropriations Act.
(4)(a) The funds appropriated for the Florida Private Student Assistance Grant shall be distributed to eligible institutions in accordance with a formula approved by the State Board of Education. The formula shall consider at least the prior year’s distribution of funds, the number of full-time eligible applicants who did not receive awards, the standardization of the expected family contribution, and provisions for unused funds.
(b) Payment of Florida private student assistance grants shall be transmitted to the president of the college or university, or to his or her representative, in advance of the registration period. Institutions shall notify students of the amount of their awards.
(c) The eligibility status of each student to receive a disbursement shall be determined by each institution as of the end of its regular registration period, inclusive of a drop-add period. Institutions shall not be required to reevaluate a student’s eligibility status after this date for purposes of changing eligibility determinations previously made.
(d) Institutions shall certify to the department the amount of funds disbursed to each student and shall remit to the department any undisbursed advances by June 1 of each year.
(e) Each institution that receives moneys through the Florida Private Student Assistance Grant Program shall prepare a biennial report that includes a financial audit, conducted by an independent certified public accountant, of the institution’s administration of the program and a complete accounting of moneys in the State Student Financial Assistance Trust Fund allocated to the institution for the program. Such report shall be submitted to the department by March 1 every other year. The department may conduct its own annual or biennial audit of an institution’s administration of the program and its allocated funds in lieu of the required biennial report and financial audit report. The department may suspend or revoke an institution’s eligibility to receive future moneys from the trust fund for the program or request a refund of any moneys overpaid to the institution through the trust fund for the program if the department finds that an institution has not complied with the provisions of this section. Any refund requested pursuant to this paragraph shall be remitted within 60 days.
(5) Funds appropriated by the Legislature for Florida private student assistance grants may be deposited in the State Student Financial Assistance Trust Fund. Notwithstanding the provisions of s. 216.301 and pursuant to s. 216.351, any balance in the trust fund at the end of any fiscal year which has been allocated to the Florida Private Student Assistance Grant Program shall remain therein and shall be available for carrying out the purposes of this section and as otherwise provided by law.
(6) The State Board of Education shall adopt rules necessary to implement this section.