Florida Lawmakers Should Revise Controversial Bright Futures Proposal
TALLAHASSEE, Florida – Under pressure that included a student-led opposition campaign, lawmakers are expected to revise a controversial Senate proposal that would tie Bright Futures scholarships to a list of job-creating diplomas.
The measure (SB 86) was tabled last week before being considered by the Senate Education Committee. The sponsor, Senator Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, told reporters at the time that he was receiving “a lot of different input” on the proposal, which he said made him want to “put the brakes on” .
Under the bill as originally tabled, students at state colleges and universities would not be eligible for Bright Futures scholarships if they enrolled in degree programs not listed on lists of “approved” programs. Students who did not choose degree programs would be entitled to 60 hours of classes covered by the popular scholarship program.
But the Senate education committee is expected to consider an amendment on Tuesday that would make significant changes to the bill. Under the amendment tabled by Baxley, Bright Futures scholarships would be “reduced”, not eliminated, for students who do not choose an academic discipline that is deemed promising for employment prospects.
Baxley sent a letter to committee members on Monday outlining some of the changes.
“Rather than creating a list of degrees that lead to jobs, the bill creates a list of degrees that DO NOT lead to jobs. Students who choose a degree or program of study that the BOG has determined will not lead to employment will receive a reduced scholarship amount (not eliminated), ”Baxley wrote, referring to the board of governors of the university system of the ‘State.
The amended plan would require Florida’s board of governors, state board of education, and independent colleges and universities to maintain such lists. The change linking Bright Futures’ eligibility to rosters would take effect in the 2023-2024 academic year, a year later than the original proposed plan. This would also apply to the state’s Benacquisto scholarship program for National Merit Scholars.
The amendment would also require the Board of Governors to develop an online dashboard with data on graduates from various fields of study. The dashboard should include information such as median salary after graduation, average student loan debt, and debt-to-income ratio.
“I hope the research will show that all or most of the degrees offered by our higher education institutions lead to jobs. But if there are degrees that don’t, I think we have a moral obligation to let the student know, ”Baxley wrote to the committee.
If adopted, the Baxley Amendment would retain certain features of the original proposal. Such a provision would change the current tiered structure of providing Bright Futures support at 75% or 100% of tuition and fees to tie scholarship levels to the appropriate amount in the state budget.
This part of the bill has angered students behind the Save Bright Futures group, which created a website and petitioned against the Senate measure.
“There is so much in the air about how much students get per scholarship. So even if you get approved, even if you work hard to get the scholarship… they don’t guarantee a certain percentage of your tuition, ”Kaylee Duong, a high school student from Orlando who is part of the group, told The News Service. from Florida in an interview last week.
The amendment changes part of the original bill that would reduce the number of credit hours Bright Futures grantees would be entitled to if they obtained college credit through an “acceleration mechanism,” like AP classes or the international baccalaureate in high school.
Baxley wrote in his letter to the Senate Education Committee that the provision would remain, but “the amendment further clarifies the deduction only if the credit is accepted by the institution and applies to the requirements of a career program. or general training courses ”.
Senate Speaker Wilton Simpson R-Trilby approved the bill and told reporters last week that the “theme” of the measure would remain even with changes.
“Our concern is whether there are degrees that do not lead to jobs. And so, we’re always going to be looking to reduce the Bright Futures portion of this opportunity if that doesn’t lead to a job, ”Simpson said.
Meanwhile, a house version of Baxley’s bill has not been tabled.
House Minority Co-Leader Evan Jenne D-Dania Beach criticized the proposal as “a horrible idea” but told reporters at a press conference on Monday “you must always be prepared to make a bill successful in the House “.
“I think it’s a situation that may have a bit more difficulty here than in the Senate,” Jenne said.