Florida Senator Dennis Baxley hits back at controversial Bright Futures proposal
In an apparent victory for naysayers, the Senate this week could drastically revise a controversial proposal to cut state Bright Futures scholarships for students in degree programs deemed unlikely to lead to jobs.
The measure (SB 86), sponsored by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, initially included a proposal that would have eliminated Bright Futures scholarships for students who did not pursue certain degrees. It was amended by Baxley last week to, in part, propose reducing scholarship amounts for non-degree-seeking students on approved program listings.
But an amendment filed Monday by Baxley would no longer tie scholarship amounts to certain degrees. The measure is set to be heard by the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday.
“My purpose in introducing Senate Bill 86 was to start the discussion about the cost and value of degrees and programs within our higher education system. Based on your feedback and with that goal in mind, I have tabled an amendment that represents a concrete step forward in this discussion, while preserving the merit-based financial aid benefits our students earned in high school, regardless of undergraduate path that the student chooses,” Baxley wrote in a letter to senators on Monday.
Under Baxley’s amendment, the board of governors of the state university system, the state board of education, and Florida’s independent colleges and universities would develop and publish lists of degrees they deem unlikely. to lead to a job. However, the listings would have no bearing on how Bright Futures Scholarships and Benacquisto Scholarships for National Merit Scholars are awarded.
Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, credited the many people who spoke out against the measure, mostly students, with bringing about the change.
“I am glad to see that there has been enough public opposition to stop this awful legislation for now, but we must remain vigilant to ensure this language does not appear hidden in the back of the budget,” Cruz wrote. in a tweet on Monday.
The proposed amendment would also remove a portion of the bill that would have reduced the number of credit hours covered by Bright Futures for students who took “accelerated credits” in high school, such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses.
Parts of Baxley’s bill would remain if the amendment were approved. This includes changing the current system of providing Bright Futures aid at 75% or 100% of tuition and fees to tie scholarship levels to the amount of money allocated in the state budget.
In Twitter posts on Monday, some students said they were still wary of the bill because it would remove guaranteed funding levels for scholarships.
“We still have more to fight. Even with this amendment, the bill still removes the guarantee that 100% and 75% of tuition is funded. You have to keep the pressure on. The Senate Appropriations Education Subcommittee meets at 10:30 a.m. at the Tuck. I’ll be there, will you? #FlaPol,” Florida State University Student Senate Legislator Jack Rowan wrote, referring to the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, where people can testify remotely in Senate meetings.
The amendment would also maintain the requirement for state university boards to “adopt procedures to connect undergraduate students to career planning, coaching, and related programs in the first year. university of the student’s registration”.
In addition, the Board of Governors would be required under the amendment to publish an online dashboard containing data on graduates from various fields of study, including median salaries after graduation and student loan debt.
“I think we should encourage all students to pursue their passions, but the fact remains (sic) that higher education comes at a significant cost to students and taxpayers and there needs to be at least an element of planning career involved,” Baxley wrote. in his letter.
Baxley also described in the letter an addition to the bill that could accompany his amendment.
“A requirement that, as part of the state university’s procedures for releasing a hold on student enrollment after the first year, that the student affirmatively indicate that he or she has received the information career requirements and indicates that he is aware of future employment and salary prospects based on his stated major,” Baxley said of the potential addition.
The amendment was tabled less than a week after Governor Ron DeSantis expressed support for the Bright Futures program, telling reporters he wanted to fully fund the scholarships.
“I was very clear, I think Bright Futures is something Florida families have built on. It’s something I support. I have fully funded it in my budget, and hopefully the legislature will follow as well,” DeSantis said Wednesday at a news conference in Collier County.
Even as he proposed changes to his bill, Baxley wrote on Monday that he still wanted to strengthen the link between higher education and the workforce.
“We have awakened a giant. We need to reconnect education and the economic model and we have started that process,” Baxley wrote.
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