End of Florida legislative session ends controversial student financial aid bill


After months of controversy, a bill proposing changes to the funding of Bright Futures was finally overturned when it was blocked in the Florida House of Representatives. However, a change in the budget may still affect some of the funding for Bright Futures students.

The 60-day session of the Florida legislature ended on April 30 – and Senate Bill 86 by its side.

Although the bill narrowly passed in the Senate on April 8, it died on April 30 after being sent to the House for consideration, according to the bill tracker.

While students’ majors will not impact their scholarships at this time, funding for Bright Futures may still change. The Bright Futures Scholarship Program was founded in 1997 and is funded by the Florida Lottery.

Students eligible for the highest scholarship currently receive full tuition coverage from Bright Futures as well as an annual stipend of $ 600 to cover textbooks and other academic expenses. These Florida University Fellows must earn at least 1,330 SAT, 3.5 GPA, and 100 high school service hours, according to the Bright Futures Student Manual.

On April 30, the House, with 117 votes to 1, and the Senate, with 39 votes to 0, agreed to remove the $ 600 allocation from the annual SB 2500 bill determining the year’s budget.

The funds provided for in the approved budget are effective from July 1 to June 30, 2022.

Other than the loss of the allowance, there have been no changes to the scholarship amounts, Representative Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, told the House session on April 29. If Governor Ron DeSantis enacts the state budget, students will no longer receive the award added to their Bright Futures scholarship next year, Plasencia said.

Senate Bill 86, which was first introduced in February by Senator Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, received a major public reaction after its original version proposed that the Bright Futures awards for students be determined by the major chosen. To receive full credit hour funding, students had to enroll in a program of study that “would lead directly to employment.” Their awarded amount would also have been reduced by the number of college credits they earned in high school.

Although Baxley argued for the union of the world of work and the world of education, his own path was uncertain. Parents and students alike interpreted Baxley’s bill as encouraging students to pursue STEM studies. Despite this, Baxley has received his own Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology at Florida State University in 1974 – the speculated majors would be cut from Bright Futures funding.

Before the House passed the bill, it underwent a number of changes in the Senate.

Following major opposition from Florida students and parents, Baxley amended the bill twice.

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The first time around, Baxley added plans to create an online public dashboard and included new requirements for the state university board to help students plan their careers. The dashboard reportedly included data helping students and families make decisions about their education and future employment opportunities.

Baxley tabled another amendment on March 22, removing most of the controversial aspects of the bill. This change suggested that a list of majors that “do not lead directly to employment” would still be created but would not have affected the amount awarded to students.

This version of the bill was not without controversy. He deleted the reference to specific tuition fee amounts guaranteed to students through Bright Futures.

Florida University Fellows receive 100% of their tuition fees and 75% of the tuition is covered for Florida Medallion Fellows. Instead, the bill was amended to say that the rewards would be “equal to the amount specified in the General appropriation law, which decides each year on the state budget.

With funding dependent on the state’s annual budget, parents and students were concerned that the Bright Futures rewards amounts were no longer guaranteed and could change from year to year.

Piper Penney, an 18-year-old first-year political science student, said she was terrified when she first heard about the bill. Bright Futures was one of the main reasons Penney chose to go to UF, and the scholarship allows her to be financially independent from her parents, she said.

Although Senators made changes to the bill, Penney said he was concerned about not guaranteeing certain amounts of scholarships for students. Penney said Bill’s trip was a nerve-wracking process.

“Every time it stopped for a debate, I was like, ‘Is this going to die now? “” she said. “And he finally did at the very end.”

As a college student who chose to stay in the state because of Bright Futures, Amanda Snyder said she felt frustrated with the bill. UF’s 19-year-old first year biochemist wanted to go to college out-of-state, but after reviewing the award with her parents, she realized it would require contracting drugs. ready, she said.

Snyder said Bright Futures is good for the state of Florida because it keeps kids smart in the state. Without the program, she said UF could lose some of its competitiveness.

“I think it helps the future of UF as a whole just because it’s going to keep the best and the brightest coming to UF, Florida State and other Florida schools,” she said. declared.

Evan Smith, an 18-year-old UF political science student, said the bill was another example of Tallahassee politicians trying to take resources away from people who cannot afford an education academics.

For Smith, Bright Futures means he can go to state college and graduate debt-free, he said.

“Bright Futures allows me to focus on being a student and not a full adult,” Smith said. “Bright Futures allowed me to focus on my education first and my finances second. ”

When the bill was blocked in the House, Smith said it was a sign of student action and advocacy work.

“Because there was such a broad criticism of this bill and such coordinated action against it, I felt really really fulfilled as a student and as an activist when it ended up stagnating in the House. “said Smith.

Contact Juliana Ferrie at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @ Juliana_F616 .

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Juliana Ferrie

Juliana Ferrie is a second year journalism student at UF. She is thrilled to be working for The Alligator as a Santa Fe Beat reporter. In her free time, you can find her reading or listening to music.