Bright Futures bill faces major backlash after attempting to change requirements

Many+Florida+high+school+seniors+depend+on+the+Bright+Futures+scholarship+program+to+help+fund+their+next+four+years.++Senate+Bill+86%2C+however%2C+could+shake+things+up+a+bit.+

Photo by Vanessa Berrios

Many Florida high school seniors depend on the Bright Futures scholarship program to help fund their next four years. Senate Bill 86, however, could shake things up a bit.

Cindy Rojas, Staff Writer

Bright Futures, the scholarship that many hard-working students all aspire to obtain in order to have a chance of going to college, recently faced a possible overhaul that would impact thousands of Florida students.  The backlash was so fierce with criticisms from parents, students, teachers, and other lawmakers, that even though it passed in the Senate, it died in the House.  This does not mean, however, that it will not be taken up again. The bill could face a rewrite and be reintroduced.

Senate Bill 86 was introduced by Florida Senator Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala back in March.  The bill would have reduced the amount students receive from the program is they took high school courses that could count for college credits.  In other words, if you take AICE Language AS Level and pass the test, that course could count as your ENC1101 credit in college.  The cost of that course would be deducted from your Bright Futures money.  Additionally, students could be turned down for the scholarship if they declared a a major that was unlikely to “lead directly to employment.”

Bright Futures is a scholarship program in the state of Florida that started in 1997. The Bright Futures program rewards Florida high school students with a lottery-funded scholarship that is obtained based on their academic performance and community service hours  It was initially started to encourage students to stay in Florida and take advantage of the state’s universities and colleges.  For many families, getting into a good college is seen as one of the greatest achievements in a young adult’s life. Despite college being expensive, these families also hope that their children could obtain a scholarship to help with expenses.

We have awakened a giant,” mentioned Baxley in a letter to other senators over the controversy caused by the bill. “We have to reconnect the education and economic model and we have begun that process.”

Baxley had previously proposed the bill in which financial aid for students would depend on the job placement rates of the major that they plan on majoring in. After the backlash, the senator removed the controversial part of the bill and introduced a watered-down version. The renewed bill would provide students with an online dashboard in which students can research the average salaries and student loan debt of their major.  Although the bill was killed in the House, critics fear that Baxley could tweak it again and reintroduce the bill.

After the initial bill was proposed, a senior at Rockledge High School, Jocelyn Meyer, created an online petition that has gained more than 139,000 signatures. 

“This is a merit-based program,” said Gary Farmer, a senator from Broward County. “ These kids work their butts off to get this.”

Students like senior Caitlin Young echoed the senator’s comments.

“The fact that Bright Futures could be in jeopardy is scary to me,” explained Young who starts at University of Central Florida in the fall. “My friends and I have been working really hard these four years to try and get this scholarship.”

For some students, Bright Futures is their only ticket to college.  Many families find themselves caught in between making too much for financial aide but making too little to pay for college out of their pockets.  Through Bright Futures, students are able to receive either a 75 percent or 100 percent scholarship. The 75 percent requires a weighted GPA of 3.0 and the 100 percent requires a weighted GPA of 3.5. Both require a minimum of 75 community service hours and specific ACT and SAT exam scores.

Despite the previous bill being discarded, many people voiced their concerns about how it could still potentially harm students. Although Bright futures offers percentages of student tuition that can be covered, the Baxley bill could now cause financial aid to depend on whether funding is available from the state budget. 

To learn more, please visit:

https://www.floridastudentfinancialaidsg.org/SAPHome/SAPHome?url=home